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What is probable cause?

As a Tennessee resident, you have the right to secure your home, property, personal effects and papers against unreasonable searches and seizures. If you are facing drug charges after law enforcement officials search your home or car, you may hear they had probable cause.

According to FindLaw, probable cause means that law enforcement believes they have adequate reason to seize property, conduct a search or arrest you. Officers typically need a search warrant to do this lawfully. Obtaining such an order requires that an officer sign an affidavit. This legal document states why the search is reasonable. A judge must agree that cause exists based on the overall situation. Prosecutors cannot charge you with a crime if officers cannot prove probable cause, with or without a warrant.

Not every circumstance requires a search warrant. Officers may search property if they have the consent of the person in charge of those premises. In emergencies in which law enforcement believes public safety is at risk, they may enter and search property. Searches may also occur legally if they pertain to a lawful arrest. In instances when contraband is in plain sight and officers have a right to be there, they may seize the item(s) without a warrant.

Probable cause exists when the circumstances and facts known to law enforcement officials could cause a reasonable person to believe you committed a crime in that place. If officers do not follow the appropriate procedures, and the result is your arrest, there may be grounds for a suit

This information is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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