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Sources of Probable Cause

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The basic thrust of the law in this area is that there are some sources of probable cause that need to be supplemented by other sources, and then, there are some sources that are good enough by themselves. There's no need to adhere to a totality of circumstances test, or checklist format (e.g., 4 out of 10 possible sources equals probable cause). The law makes ample use of precedents set in other areas of procedural and evidence law.

Most of the sources can be categorized into four (4) groups:

Observation -- These are things that the police officer obtains knowledge of via the senses: sight, smell, hearing; but this category would also include the kinds of inferences to be made when the experienced police officer is able to detect a familiar pattern (of criminal activity) that contains a series of suspicious behaviors (e.g., circling the block twice around an armored car unloading at a bank).

Expertise -- These are the kinds of things that a police officer is specially trained at; such things as gang awareness and identification, recognition of burglar tools, the ability to read graffitti and tatoos, and various other techniques in the general direction of knowing when certain gestures, movements, or preparations tend to indicate impending criminal activity.

Circumstantial Evidence -- This is evidence that points the finger away from other suspects or an alibi, and by a process of elimination, the only probable conclusion to be drawn is that the person or things left behind is involved in crime.

Information -- This is a broad category which includes informants, statements by witnesses and victims, and announcements via police bulletins, broadcasts, and at roll call.

One can collapse these categories down to two (2) into direct and indirect.

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