Understanding Probable Cause in Nevada
In the United States, police officers must have probable cause to arrest someone.
But what exactly is probable cause? And how does it apply to law enforcement in the state of Nevada?
If you really want to know and get a better grasp on your civil rights when interacting with those in law enforcement, then understanding this concept can surely help.
Probable cause is an important legal concept. Let’s take a closer look at the legal definition of probable cause in Nevada.
What Is Probable Cause?
Probable cause is a reasonable belief that someone has committed or is about to commit a crime. This belief must be based on facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that an offense has been or will be committed.
In other words, there must be some evidence that suggests criminal activity before police can make an arrest or search property without a warrant.
Probable cause leads to an arrest.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guilty, but it does mean that police have enough to believe you may have committed a crime. For example in this DUI case, “Clark County District Attorney’s office said it would pursue the case via preliminary hearing, in which a judge hears the prosecution’s evidence and decides if it’s sufficient for establishing probable cause and proceeding to trial.”
What Is the Difference Between Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion?
While similar, there is a difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion. Probable cause is the higher standard of proof needed for an arrest or searches to be valid under Nevada law. It requires specific facts that point to criminal activity.
For example, a breathalyzer test that shows a driver is over the legal limit for blood alcohol content would be an example of probable cause. If the driver’s BAC was over the limit, this gives the officer probable cause to arrest you because you have committed a crime (which is driving under the influence).
On the other hand, reasonable suspicion is a lower standard of proof needed for police to conduct certain investigative activities such as making inquiries or asking someone to identify themselves.
Reasonable suspicion requires that there are facts and circumstances that lead an officer to reasonably believe that criminal activity may be taking place or has taken place. Unlike probable cause, reasonable suspicion does not require hard evidence of a crime, but rather only suspicious behavior. This, however, has to be more than a hunch.
For example, a vehicle was driving along the highway around 11 PM at a speed slower than the normal flow of traffic, weaving in and out of lanes, and disregarding multiple traffic laws. This would constitute reasonable suspicion for an officer to pull the car over and investigate further.
Summarizing the key difference between the two, police officers:
- Must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, question you, or pat you down (temporarily detain you).
- Must have probable cause to arrest you (read your Miranda rights, put you in jail, etc.)
How Does Probable Cause Apply to DUI Cases in Nevada?
In Nevada, officers typically use the results of a breathalyzer test as probable cause for an arrest in DUI cases. If you are pulled over on suspicion of a DUI and you fail the breathalyzer test, then your BAC level provides sufficient evidence for police to arrest you without a warrant.
This is because in Nevada it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC over 0.08%. When you are taken into custody, you will be read your Miranda rights, and the arrest will be recorded in your criminal record.
Common Evidence Used to Establish Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest
Although a breathalyzer test is the most common way to establish probable cause for an arrest, there are other evidence law enforcement use.
The following are all forms of evidence that can be used to establish probable cause:
- Physical signs of intoxication such as slurred speech or unsteady balance.
- Admission of drinking alcohol.
- Open containers in the vehicle or the smell of alcohol on your breath.
- Failed sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line or reciting the alphabet backwards.
- Evidence obtained from a traffic stop, such as swerving or speeding.
Therefore, if law enforcement has enough evidence to suggest that you are impaired and have committed a crime, they have the right to make an arrest without a warrant.
Note that getting arrested doesn’t mean you are guilty. You still have the right to defend your case in court and potentially challenge the evidence used to establish probable cause for your arrest.
If you are facing a DUI charge, contact an experienced Nevada DUI lawyer like The Defenders can help review your case and protect your legal rights.
What If The Arresting Officer Didn’t Have Probable Cause?
If the arresting officer did not have probable cause for your arrest, this means that any evidence obtained from the arrest can be thrown out in court.
This is because, without sufficient evidence to establish that you committed a crime, police had no legal basis to detain and search you. Therefore, any evidence they obtained after detaining or searching can be deemed inadmissible in court.
If you believe that your arrest was made without probable cause, contact an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney right away who can review your case and protect your legal rights.
Exceptions to the Need for Probable Cause
Although probable cause is necessary for most arrests, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For example, sobriety checkpoints or DUI checkpoints are considered legal in Nevada. During checkpoints, officers can stop drivers and question them even if they do not have reasonable suspicion that a crime (driving under the influence) has been committed.
This is, of course, provided that the DUI checkpoint is established in accordance with all applicable state laws.
Arrested and Charged with a Crime? Hire The Defenders
Probable cause is an important legal concept when it comes to law enforcement’s power to make arrests or search property without a warrant. It establishes limits on what kinds of searches and arrests are legally permissible and ensures that individuals are not arrested without sufficient reason.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, it is important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. At The Defenders, our team of skilled attorneys has the experience and resources to review your case, protect your legal rights and fight for a favorable outcome.
Contact us today for a free consultation!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is reasonable suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is an objective standard that allows law enforcement to stop and detain individuals if there is some evidence or facts to suggest they are involved in criminal activity. This lower standard of proof than probable cause, which requires more substantial evidence linking a suspect to a crime before police can make an arrest. Failing to stop at a red light, going 100 mph on a 55 mph road, or driving with a broken taillight all examples of reasonable suspicions to pull you over.
What is probable cause?
Probable cause is the legal standard necessary for police to make an arrest without a warrant. For an officer to have probable cause, they must possess enough evidence to reasonably believe that a person has committed a crime. For DUI cases, this might include evidence from breathalyzer tests or field sobriety tests.
What’s the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion?
The main difference is that probable cause requires more substantial evidence than reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard of proof that allows police to stop and detain individuals if there is some evidence or facts to suggest they are involved in criminal activity. Probable cause requires more substantial evidence linking a suspect to a crime before police can make an arrest.
Do the police need probable cause to arrest me?
Yes, law enforcement must have probable cause in order to legally arrest someone. This means that they must possess enough evidence to reasonably believe that a person has committed a crime.
When can a police officer pull me over?
An officer needs reasonable suspicion in order to legally pull someone over. This requires some evidence or facts to suggest they are involved in criminal activity, such as failing to stop at a red light, going 100 mph on a 55 mph road, or driving with a broken taillight.
Are there exceptions to the need for probable cause?
Yes. In certain cases, law enforcement can search a person or property without the need for probable cause or a warrant. For example, in Nevada, police can make DUI arrests without having to meet the probable cause standard if they have set up a legal DUI checkpoint.
What if the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause?
If the officer did not have probable cause, then your arrest may be considered unlawful. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case and determine the best course of action to protect your legal rights.
If I am facing a DUI charge, what should I do? Can The Defenders help me with my case?
Yes, The Defenders can help you with your DUI charge. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will review all the evidence in your case and provide strategic guidance to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.