Click to toggle navigation menu.


ExpertBeacon Logo

Lawful arrests require probable cause

Lawful arrests require police to have probable cause.  The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment authorizes arrests by police, only if they have probable cause that a crime has been committed and that you are the person who committed that crime.

Once taken into custody you will be booked, meaning your fingerprints and a mug shot will be taken.  Then, you will appear before a judge who will determine if there was enough evidence to support probable cause for the arrest.

If the judge determines there was not enough evidence, the judge will order the charges dropped and you will be released.  However, if the police secure more evidence, they can re-arrest you for the same and/or additional crimes.

If the judge decides there is sufficient evidence to support the arrest you, one of the following will occur:

  • You will remain in custody, which is common for capital offenses such as murder or where there is significant concern you will flee before the trial.
  • They will release you on your own recognizance with the promise to return and be present for all court appearances.
  • If you can post bail, which is a cash amount of money that the judge requires you to submit to the court with the promise to appear for all court appearances, and then you will be released.  If you fail to appear in court, you forfeit the amount of money you posted as bail and may be charged with bail jumping, a separate offense.
  • If you have been arrested you may want to contact someone close to you who can appear at your first court appearance to represent to the Court that you have a stable living situation, are employed, and have good community ties. This may cause the Judge to either release you on your promise to appear, or set a low bail.

Probable cause is not generally required to arrest you if you are already on probation or parole.  A condition of probation or parole is that you have agreed to be arrested without probable cause.

For minor offenses and misdemeanors, such as traffic offenses or shoplifting, a police officer can issue a citation as an alternative to an arrest.  A citation is a notice to appear in court by the signee.

Photo Credits: Police car and crowds by Flickr

Mark MestelCriminal Defense Attorney

Mark D. Mestel has over 30 years of criminal defense experience. Since 1977, Mr. Mestel has personally handled hundreds of felony cases. Mark Mestel attended four years of college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating ...

View Full ProfileRecent Articles