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Probable Cause Definition – Criminal Lawyer Jon Katz Weighs In

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Probable cause definition- Fairfax criminal lawyer weighs in- Photo of handcuffs and judicial gavel

Probable cause definition – Fairfax criminal lawyer weighs in

Probable cause is needed for police to search and arrest – Fairfax criminal lawyer addresses its definition

Probable cause (“PC“) under the Fourth Amendment is required both for police to conduct a search for a criminal investigation, and to arrest a suspect. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I find it curious at the very least that the Virginia Supreme Court continues to define PC after the United States Supreme Court in 2003 already unanimously proclaimed that the PC “standard is incapable of precise definition or quantification into percentages because it deals with probabilities and depends on the totality of the circumstances.” Pringle, 540 U.S. 366 (2003) (found here at the SCOTUS website).

Consequently, a lawyer in Northern Virginia and everywhere else in the Commonwealth will want to have handy the Virginia appellate caselaw defining probable cause.

Virginia Supreme Court’s probable cause definition

In 2010, the Virginia Supreme Court defined and explained probable cause as follows:

“We have stated that probable cause exists “‘”when the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, alone are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been or is being committed.”‘”… In determining whether a police officer had probable cause to arrest a defendant, a trial court must consider the totality of the facts and circumstances presented and what those facts and circumstances reasonably meant to a trained police officer…” Jones v. Commonwealth, 279 Va. 52, 60, 688 S.E.2d 269, 273 (2010).

Virginia’s Jones opinion defines PC even though SCOTUS says not to do so

The Commonwealth’s Jones opinion defines probable cause, even though seven years earlier the United States Supreme Court in Pringle said that the PC “standard is incapable of precise definition.” Pringle does confirm that: “We have stated, however, that ‘[t]he substance of all the definitions of probable cause is a reasonable ground for belief of guilt.’” Consequently, SCOTUS’s unanimous Pringle opinion says that PC cannot be defined and that the substance of all PC definitions is “reasonable grounds for belief of guilt.” Virginia’s Jones opinion, though, defines PC, with a definition similar to the foregoing quote from Pringle.

PC is much more than reasonable suspicion, which is more than a hunch

PC is much more than reasonable suspicion, which is more than a hunch. Jackson v. Virginia, 267 Va. 666 (Va. 2004): “Reasonable suspicion is something ‘more than an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or ‘hunch'” of criminal activity.’ However, it is something less than probable cause.” Id.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions in Northern Virginia, Arlington County, Loudoun, Prince William and beyond. To discuss your criminal case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.