You're walking down the street minding your own business. Suddenly, an officer approaches you and says you fit the description of a reported burglar in the area and you're holding an item similar to one that has been reported stolen. The office places you in custody and takes you into the station. This scenario represents probable cause. If you have been involved in a similar situation, it's important that you understand the parameters of probable cause so that you know how to protect your rights.
What Is Probable Cause?
The formal definition of probable cause basically states that an officer needs to be able to pinpoint an objective circumstance that leads them to believe that a particular suspect has committed a crime. If you use the previous scenario as an example, the individual fitting the description of the reported burglar and having in their possession an item that was similar to an item that had been reported stolen would both serve as objective circumstance. Probable cause can't be based off of a feeling, but instead actual facts.
What You Need to Know
The most important thing to understand is that an arrest for probable cause is not necessarily a segue for a criminal charge. If you have been arrested for probable cause, don't assume that you are being charged with a crime. Again, using the previous example, the fact that an individual looks like the reported burglar does not mean they are the burglar.
Both the officer and prosecutor need to produce evidence in order to proceed with a charge. However, you do need to understand that this is a serious matter you don't want to take lightly. Your failure to cooperate or give truthful information could quickly result in criminal charges, even if you are innocent. Finding yourself fighting charges for a crime you didn't commit is not a place you want to find yourself.
What You Need to Do
If you have been detained or arrested for probable cause, the first thing you want to do is exercise your right for an attorney. A probable cause arrest is just like any other arrest in the fact that anything you say or do can and will be held against you. A criminal defense attorney will first review the objective circumstances of the arresting officer to ensure they are valid and instruct you through the questioning phase to ensure you don't mistakenly incriminate yourself.
If you're arrested for probable cause, protecting your rights is the most important thing. Make sure you understand the process to ensure your rights aren't violated.