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Why is probable cause important when defending a DWI charge?

When a California driver is facing a DWI charge, the potential impact of the charges and a potential conviction are clear. For that and other reasons, any person facing criminal charges retains the right to defend themselves in a criminal courtroom. When defending a DWI charge, probable cause forms an important part of the case, though many people are not quite sure what that means.

Probable cause is a valid reason to arrest a person, seize property or initiate a search. It must be based upon more that mere suspicion. When a judge is asked to issue a warrant to conduct a search, arrest someone and/or authorize the seizure of property, probable cause must exist to justify the warrant. An arrest issued without a warrant will have to sufficiently document probable cause before prosecution can take place. When arresting an individual, police must have knowledge, based on particular facts, that a crime was committed or is about to be committed.

As opposed to an arrest, detaining a person may occur without probable cause. Reasonable suspicion may trigger detention, but before detention can develop into arrest, probable cause has to be shown. When traffic officials arrest a driver that was pulled off the road, they have to show that probable cause existed for pulling the driver over. The same goes for searching a vehicle since mere suspicion is not probable cause. Before prosecutors can charge a driver with a crime, they must have probable cause.

Defending a DWI charge in a California court may result in a positive outcome with the assistance of an experienced criminal law attorney. If an arrest took place without probable cause, or a charge was pursued in that manner, the case is subject to dismissal based upon a claim of malicious prosecution or false arrest; if such an application is granted, the wrongly accused person may choose to seek financial redress in a civil court. If prosecutors offer evidence that proves to have been obtained from a search without probable cause, that evidence may be excluded at trial. An attorney will examine all procedures used during the arrest for legality, and act upon any suspected wrongdoing by filing appropriate applications to the court.

Source: FindLaw, "Probable Cause", Accessed on Feb. 28, 2015

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