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How probable cause is determined

Probable cause is what is needed to conduct a search of a property or person. It is required in Kentucky and every state by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. It is not a precise term, meaning that it can carry different connotations, so it is left to the Supreme Court to decide its meaning.

According to Police magazine, the supreme court has defined probable cause as being a situation in which law enforcement has solid information that makes it fairly reasonable to believe that a person has committed a crime or that evidence of a criminal activity will be found. It does not require the evidence like a conviction would.

In a case that went in front of the Supreme Court, Kentucky v. King, the court was looking at this idea again. As explained by the American Bar Association, the main idea at hand was if law enforcement could conduct a search of a residence without a warrant or permission if they were responsible for creating the probable cause needed under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, after smelling marijuana and announcing their presence, officers entered a residence when they heard sounds that led them to believe evidence was being destroyed.

When the case was in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court, they decided the officers actually created the circumstances that gave them the right to enter the residence. By announcing their presence, they initiated the destruction of evidence, so this was a violation of rights. The U.S. Supreme Court, on the other hand, decided that if officers' actions result in circumstances that create probable cause, but those actions were not violating Fourth Amendment rights, then the search is allowable under the law.

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Gatlin Voelker,PLLC

Gatlin Voelker, PLLC
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