Generally, individuals have reasonable expectations of personal privacy and discretion in their houses. Probable cause is essentially a standard by which an agent of the law seeks to apply for a warrant of arrest, conduct a personal or property search, make an arrest or perform other legal processes while contemplating criminal charges. In various jurisdictions such as the United States probable cause can also be used to denote the standard to which the grand jury considers that an offense has been committed (Mitchell, 2012). Basically, the right to security of persons and their property is not to be interfered without a convincing reason.
The general rule is that in order for an officer to conduct a search or an arrest there must be a compelling reason for such action. As such even in instances where there is no search warrant an officer must have a feeling that the person about to be searched may have in possession something that is likely to cause injury to the person or another. An arrest must therefore be justified otherwise it may lead to lawsuit against the arresting officer such as the class-action lawsuit against the NYPD where police were accused of making unjustified arrests and searches while enforcing Operation Clean Hall program (Del Signore, 2012).
The foregoing program has been in force for twenty years and is an agreement between the landlords and the cops. The agreement permits officers to routinely enter and stop persons who look suspicious. Residents complained of harassment by the police when they walked into their home. The suit prompted the police commissioner to provide new guidelines on how the police can patrol privately owned buildings. The order provided that the officers need probable cause to arrest an individual for trespassing. It further required the police to take reasonable measures such as asking for building keys or identification to confirm whether a person who is stopped has the right to be there. Such measures would enable the police to avoid unjustified trespass arrests (Parascandola, 2012).
In cases where the warrant is sought some jurisdictions require that it should be supported by affirmation or oath and should have a description of the person or property to be seized or place to be searched. Probable in this context refers to the common behavior and customs. Consequently, criminal procedure requires that a warrant be issued by a judicial officer who decides whether reasonable grounds exist for the requested search or arrest (Brennan, 2011). An enforcement officer must therefore provide considerable reasons before a judicial officer. A search warrant authorises an officer to invade the privacy of a citizen. Consequently, a warrant specifies the person or place to be searched as well as the evidence to be sought.
Although a search warrant is usually issues ex parte its validity may be challenged in an ensuing suppression hearing. This is generally done in cases where incriminating evidence is discovered leading to prosecution. The affected person may therefore seek to contest the accuracy of the statements put forth by the police allowing them to procure the warrant thereby challenging the assertions that established probable cause. The power of the official issuing the warrant can also be challenged by the defendant.
With regard to the foregoing, there are some exceptions to the warrant requirements which include consent, exigent circumstances, plain view, and search incidental to a lawful arrest, motor vehicles, and border search. Basically, where a party consents to a search a warrant is not necessary even in cases where a person is uninformed of their right to refuse to cooperate. Exigent circumstances relate to situations where law enforcement agencies have reason to believe that there is immediate need to safeguard their lives. As regards the plain view doctrine it provides that an enforcement officer may seize objects that are in plain view. However, this is only done where the officer has probable cause to believe that the items are contraband.
Further, searches incident to lawful arrest are usually conducted in order to prevent the arrested person from using a weapon against an arresting officer or destroying evidence. On the other hand vehicles are usually regarded as having diminished expectation with regard to privacy since they do not serve as repositories or residences of personal effects. As such, reasonable suspicion is usually enough to have a vehicle searched therefore a warrant may not be necessary.
Accordingly, border searches are generally equivalent to searches in airports and therefore may be conducted without probable cause or a warrant. At border points searches are conducted randomly and without suspicion. It is important to note that exceptions to warrant of arrest or search are usually considered reasonable where the urgency of the situation prevail over the privacy interest of a person.
Brennan, D. (2011, April 23). Judge finds probable cause in Maylee case. Retrieved from
Del Signore, J. (2012, July 25). Legal Experts Accuse NYPD of "Widespread Human Rights
Violations" Against Occupy Wall Street. Retrieved from http://gothamist.com/2012/07/25/report_nypd_handling_of_occupy_wall.php
Mitchell, W. (2012, September 6). Fleming skeletons murder case sent to grand jury.
Retrieved from http://www.maysville-online.com/news/local/fleming-skeletons-murder-case-sent-to-grand-jury/article_28fd3ea1-6a41-525b-8752-863f7e3a922a.html
Parascandola R. (2012, May 22). ‘Clean Hall’ patrol rule Cops need probable cause for arrest.
Retrieved from http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-05-22/news/31816793_1_buildings-arrests-nypd