When the police or prosecutors investigate any person for an alleged crime, they have an obligation to explain why they were looking into it. In the American system of law, pure fishing expeditions are not allowed. Every attorney has stories about cases that were started under questionable circumstances, though. If you have doubts about why a case was started against you, here are some considerations that a criminal defense attorney is likely to look at.

The Standard of Probable Cause

Probable cause is a concept first invoked in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are actually two related standards of probable cause.

First, there is the idea that a specific set of circumstances defies statistical probability. For example, if the police have been notified that a bright pink Ferrari was seen leaving the scene of a bank robbery, it would seem statistically unlikely that there would be a second bright pink Ferrari in the vicinity at the same time. Therefore, upon spotting such a vehicle, they would most likely have probable cause to stop the vehicle.

Second, there is the notion that a common standard exists in any society. For example, an individual with no visible wounds who was walking around covered in blood is probably someone the police would want to stop and talk with. It defies basic reason to assume the cops would just let such a person pass by and not investigate. They would be in a reasonable position to search the individual for weapons, too.

Reasonable Suspicion

There is also a lesser form of probable cause that allows the police to briefly stop individuals. A common example of this is how DUI stops works. If a driver is seen going over the yellow line a couple of times, the police don't have enough probable cause to go straight to performing a breathalyzer test. They do, however, have reasonable suspicion.

From the point they pull the driver over, they have a limited amount of time to either establish probable cause or leave the motorist alone. Probable cause may be derived from indications like slurred speech, combativeness, or confusion during the brief conversation.


When a warrant is granted by a judge, it must be specific. Let's say the police believe you have drugs in your house. The warrant must state where they believe the drugs are, and the cops cannot spend the whole day tearing apart your house hoping to find them.

For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney.