What Is Probable Cause?

Probable cause

When can police search you or your property?

Recently, a story in the news has many wondering what “probable cause” is. In this article, you will find the definition of probable cause, and the recent news story will be turned over to you. You can decide whether or not you believe there is sufficient enough probable cause for a man to stand trial.

The Fourth Amendment

Probable cause comes from the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment provides the people’s right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizures. It requires probable cause when a police officer performs a search, make an arrest, or obtain a warrant. Below is the Fourth Amendment from the U.S Constitution,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Probable Cause

According to Cornell University Law School,

“Courts usually find probable cause when there is a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed (for an arrest) or when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched (for a search).”

There are also what Cornell Law School refers to as exigent circumstances, probable cause that can justify a warrantless search, seizure, or arrest. If someone is arrested without a warrant, they are to be brought before an authority quickly after the arrest to determine probable cause.

Should Kenyon Robertson Stand Trial?

Here is what we know about the case involving Kenyon Robertson. The information is provided by an article by the Detroit News.

Earlier this month, the article reported that Kenyon Robertson will stand trial. In 2012, he had been charged with possession of heroin and the intention to distribute it.

In 2012, police were surveying a Pontiac bus station. An anonymous trip came in that a man name Leroy Jackson had heroin there. According to the article, Robertson accompanied Jackson. Jackson was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

Robertson though was reportedly identified with incorrect information and was “acting nervous”. A police dog “alerted” authorities on bags owned by Jackson and Robertson, but nothing was found.

Robertson admitted to an officer that earlier in the day he had smoked marijuana with Jackson. When the officer search Robertson, after the marijuana confession, he found heroin.

The Detroit News also reported that during questioning, Sergeant Sean Jennings put Robertson in handcuffs because the “sheriff’s officer said the defendant’s demeanor made him have concern for his safety.”

Was There Probable Cause?

The Oakland trial court ruled that there was not sufficient probable cause to search Robertson. The reasoning was because he had not been named in the tip, and the defendant’s false identification and the dog’s “alert” were not sufficient probable cause.

The trial court ruled that the false identification and the marijuana confession only came after Robertson was “illegally detained”.

However, the Michigan Court of Appeals has overruled. The Appeals Court ruled that the “totality of circumstances”, the marijuana confession and the dog’s “alert”, was enough probable cause for a search and arrest.

In fact, it was reportedly an unanimous decision by Judges Michael Riordan, Pat M. Donofrio and Mark Boonstra.

Your Turn

So, what do you think? Was there enough probable cause for a search and arrest? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.