Law enforcement officers often approach individuals or vehicles and begin making demands. They may demand you show your ID. They may begin drilling you with questions about what you are doing? Where you are going? Were you drinking? With all of these questions, when does “probable cause” come into play? When is it not legal?
The courts decide whether there was probable cause in an arrest situation. When a person is asked to produce documents, to submit to a pat-down, or fulfill another demand by a peace officer, in most cases, there is little good that can come from refusing. The term “probable cause” is a vague term that means in any given situation, the officer has counted more reasons to believe an action is grounds to arrest or search someone, or to enter a building. The police have more tools in their toolbox to punish anyone who does not follow their demands than a person has if he or she refuses those demands. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe the police had no reason to make demands, it is best for you to comply anyway and then address the matter later with the assistance of an attorney. The following case study exemplifies why it is best to follow the orders of a police officer to prevent further problems.
A Washington “Probable Cause” Case Study
A driver was pulled over for a broken tail light. There were five people in the car headed to a musical festival. As the officer checks the person's driver license and registration, he begins asking questions about their destination.
“I heard there are lots of drugs at these festivals.”
“Have you had anything to drink?”
The group, which had not used any substances, was getting anxious because they wanted to catch the start of the show. The driver began to get impatient and asked the officer to hand over the citation so they could be on their way. The officer then told the driver to step out of the car. The driver argued. The officer then tells EVERYONE to get out of the car. After some back and forth arguing, the group emerged from the vehicle and the officer patted down each of them. The officer found a glass pipe on one of the passengers who was 17. The officer remarked that he “smelled marijuana,” which is why he pressed the group.
What is Suppression?
In the above case study, we do not know for certain that if the driver had been compliant, then would that have been enough for the officer to allow them to continue to the concert without much further complication. But because the driver was not compliant, the officer may have had reasonable suspicion to investigate further, at which time he found something he could use for probable cause: a glass pipe. If the driver had not been combative, then the officer may not have had cause to suspect something was going on. In this case, the lines are blurred between what was allowable, and as such, an attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence (in this case, the glass pipe).
Suppressing evidence in a court setting means you request the court to refrain from considering certain evidence. Your criminal defense attorney often chooses this route when he or she believes the evidence against you was derived without probable cause.
It is best to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to help you understand your rights and to develop your strategy. Steve Karimi can be your partner in working to suppress illegal evidence or to gain a dismissal when there was no basis for a search. Call Karimi Law Office today.