Explanation of Probable Cause for Purposes of Search & Seizure
The term probable cause is used in several contexts in New Jersey Search and Seizure. The lawyers at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess over 100 years of collective experience and include several former prosecutors, to provide you with more detailed information concerning the concept of probable cause. Give one of our attorneys a call anytime 24/7 at 1-877-450-8301 if you require additional explanation beyond that which follows and/or representation in Monmouth County, Union County, Passaic County, Middlesex County, Hudson County, Essex County, Ocean County, Morris County, Bergen County or elsewhere in NJ.
Probable cause is the standard that must be met before someone or something may be searched consistent with the Constitution. “Probable cause” comes into play in several areas of NJ Search & Seizure Law. One of the primary areas where this term arises is an Application for a Search Warrant. The question in this instance is whether there is probable cause to believe that evidence will be found on the person or in the place to be searched. A Judge must find, based on all the facts and circumstances set forth in an affidavit or through testimony, that there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place. Another area where this term is used is a Search Without a Warrant (a.k.a. Warrantless Search); the standard in this situation is the same except that there must be both a reasonable belief that incriminatory evidence will be found and also an Exigent Circumstance.
Probable Cause Defined
Probable cause is a common-sense, practical standard, that is supposed to be flexible. The standard is met where there is a well grounded suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed. If a reasonable person would be led to believe that the law has been or shall be violated, then probable cause has been established. The existence of probable cause is judged by a standard of objective reasonableness based on the totality of facts existing at the time of the determination. Probable cause therefore requires a showing of “facts” so that bald assertions of belief made by police will not suffice in supporting a search warrant or warrantless search. Probable cause likewise does not exist where the facts presented in support thereof are stale or out dated.
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