If a law enforcement officer stops you, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you are acting illegally. This is known as probable cause, and it is key in allowing a police officer to lawfully detain you, investigate criminal activity, or arrest you. Probable cause requires the officer to notice evidence or fact that lead them to reasonably suspect that your behavior is illegal. Without probable cause, an officer may not pull you over or arrest you.
Even if you are innocent, an arrest is valid, so long as there is probable cause. You may not be charged or convicted of criminal activity, but your arrest may still be considered lawful, if the officer had reasonable suspicion. You arrest may be considered unlawful, however, if the judge determines the officer did not have probable cause to stop you.
Probable cause is important for a number of reasons. It protects innocent people from police harassment. It can prevent an officer from searching a person or their vehicle and finding evidence that they would not have discovered otherwise. It can also help prevent police from tricking people into consenting to unlawful searches, and can prevent anything that is found during an unlawful search from being used as evidence against the individual.
If the officer does have probable cause, you still are able to refuse your consent to a search. If an officer still searches, despite your lack of consent, your lawyer may be able to make a motion to suppress the evidence. The court may determine that the officer did not have probable cause, and you may gain further protection from your charges. The judge will have the final say regarding what can be used as probable cause, and what cannot be.
Don’t face your criminal charges alone. Get in touch with our Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer to find out how we can help you with your charges. At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we are trial-tested and well-equipped to handle your case, no matter how complex it may be.