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Distinction between probable cause for arrest and probable cause for a search

Probable cause can be defined as “a reasonable amount of suspicion and belief or suspicion that a certain person as per prevailing circumstances during a particular period of time that an identified person has committed crime” (Handler, J.G., 1994, p.58). According to the law therefore, an officer has justifiable reasons to either conduct a personal and (or) property search, make arrests or request for an arrest warrant in consideration of criminal charges against the person in question. As a result therefore, the legal standard for probable cause is basically dictated by the prevailing standards in the sense that in a situation like the incident above, as long as there is an acceptable degree of suspicion relating to the actual statistical probability or as dictated by generally acceptable standard of customs and common behavior that a crime has been committed by the suspect, then such is probable cause. This means that the legal standard governing probable cause may differ and indeed differs from one place to another or from one place to another as dictated by the law in the land regarding probable cause. Koshy, A. and Sunny A. M. (1988) explained, “a justified reason of suspicion against an individual either by a member of the public or an agent of the law is a good reason to ascertain probable cause provided that this meets laid down procedures on the standards of evidence”. Depending on the prevailing circumstances in an incidence that justifies probable cause, there can be said to exist a narrow a distinction between probable cause for arrest and probable cause for a search. However, Burkoff, J. M. (2000) comments “this is closely guarded by the prevailing legal standards in any given country and therefore a probable cause for arrest is one in which a there is reasonable doubt that a suspect has been involved in an incidence where he broke the law or there is sufficient evidence that the suspect is required by a court of law to answer to charges against his/her criminal activities”. On the other hand, a probable cause for search is one in which there is a good reason beyond doubt that a suspect could be a criminal, in possession of illegal items or that search could provide evidence on the suspects involvement in criminal activities.  

Facts that establish probable cause in the incident described above

In the above incidence, there exist several facts that warrant probable cause beyond doubt ranging from the suspects behavior after the robbery incidence and the prevailing circumstances regarding the robbery incidence to the observance of generally accepted standards of conduct and behaviour. To start with, the suspects behaviour to flee away speeding just after the occurrence of the robbery incidence and subsequent reporting of a robbery attack with a description of the suspect giving a strong basis to either doubt his behavior, innocence and lack of having been a party to the robbery attack and therefore a justified grounds that he had been involved in the attack hence probable cause.. At the same time, the suspect is said to disappear in a red late-model 2-door Mustang towards a direction which according to Sgt. Jones is a common route taken by robbers after carrying out their robbery attacks. According to him, ‘many suspect flee in this direction and ditch their vehicles (often, these vehicles were stolen)’. This leaves an undoubted level of suspicion regarding the suspect, there is a high probability that the suspect had been involved in the robbery attach and is running away, as a result therefore, any prudent member of the public or agent of the law is justified to belief and think that the suspect had committed the crime or was involved in it and can therefore claim probable cause. After some time, a car matching the one used by the suspect to escape is spotted racing down Magnolia street, the same route that had been taken by the suspect, sgt. Jones collogue acclaims “Sgt Jones and I approach the intersection, we both spot a vehicle matching the suspect’s vehicle race down Magnolia Street. In this regard and considering the circumstances, any agent of the law has the right and is justified to seek arrest, seek an arrest warrant or conduct a personal or property search on the suspect to ascertain the suspect’s innocence or valid involvement in the crime.

In addition, the suspect’s behavior is also an important aspect in determining probable cause governed by his action to flee away from the area just moments after the robbery incident does not conform to generally acceptable standards of conduct as well as community customs. “The suspect was seen leaving the area in a red late-model 2-door Mustang”. This forms a strong basis of suspicion and hence grounds to probable cause followed by the suspect’s arrests or conducting of a search. This is because the suspect is seen driving a similar car to the one that had been used to flee away from the robbery spot. On noticing the police, “The vehicle quickly speeds up in an apparent attempt to elude arrest” after which he loses control over the car and runs in to a telephone pole; these actions are justifiable standards to warrant probable cause and subsequent action taken against the suspect as required by the law.

Moreover, when the suspect realized that the police where chasing him and drove away speedily, after running in to a telephone pole, despite him having been ordered to “stop”, “he crawls from the car and attempts to run away” in an attempt to escape showing his guilt and hence high chances of having been involved in the robbery. Generally, acceptable community behaviours, standards and customs, require that one can only flee if in fear or has done something wrong. This is a basic principle to ascertain any suspect’s innocence in the event that a crime has taken place. As a result of this, Sgt. Jones who is acting in the capacity of an agent of the law has every reason to doubt the suspects innocence and is justified in either making an arrest, to obtain an arrest warrant against the suspect or conduct a property or personal search which are all acceptable standards on probable cause. In addition, the suspect’s behavior not to stop after he had been ordered to “stop” by Sgt. Jones adds to a reasonable belief that he had committed the  crime and therefore as supported by circumstances, this is  sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and seeks to caution a persons and (or) the police’s belief that certain facts including his apparent involvement in the robbery are true to a certain degree facilitating  probable cause.

 Similarly, the suspect’s behavior to jump out of the vehicle and drop what appeared to be a cut cigar tube on the ground is an act that fuels information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime doubting what the dropped item would be, probably a weapon. On noticing that the police would catch up with him, the suspect, turns around holding what appeared to be a small caliber revolver (an illegally possessed weapon) to fight against the police, a criminal act that warrants arrest. According to the extract, “Sgt. Jones quickly catches up to the injured suspect and the suspect turns around, holding what appears to be a small caliber revolver”. At the same time, the suspect’s action to hit Sgt. Jones with a closed fist is more evidence to fuel the suspicion that he had been involved in criminal activities as this is against the general standards of common behavior and customs. As a result, Sgt. Jones hits him with such force that the gun falls to the ground: this led to his arrest by the police for actions that fuel suspicion on his behavior, possession of arms and his attempt to disobey and fight agents of the law. Finally, as per the extract, “The suspect, a Mr. Simon Simms (White Male, DOB 1-1-1986) is on felony probation and has two previous armed robbery convictions” he is found to be a male just as had been reported that the suspect involved in the robbery was a male, sufficient information and evidence to justify the suspicion any prudent person or agent of the law that the suspect was a criminal and had indeed been involved in criminal activities.

In conclusion therefore, these stated acts above as exhibited by the suspect after the robbery incidence ranging from behavioral to his undertaking of several acts prove well beyond any doubt that the suspect had been involved in the robbery incidence and therefore warrant probable cause. These acts range from the suspects behavior after the robbery incidence and the prevailing circumstances regarding the robbery incidence and therefore don’t match the community’s observance of generally accepted standards of conduct and behavior. As a result, all these stated facts work to heavily establish probable cause.

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