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Is Proximity to a Crime Scene Probable Cause?

May 02, 2018

By Van Der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin

A Philadelphia man was recently arrested for rape, battery, theft, and a half dozen other crimes, when he allegedly returned to the scene of the crime, according to NBC 10 News. Police say that they recognized the man from surveillance camera footage, which captured an attack on a woman who had been walking to work. Later in the week, police arrested the suspect at around the same time and place as the original attack took place. The man had 41 prior arrests, most of which were for drug and theft crimes. When police make an arrest based on information gleaned from fuzzy night time surveillance footage, there should always be a high level of concern that they made the arrest based on other criteria, such as the defendant’s proximity to the crime scene and their past criminal record. In many cases, police do not have probable cause to make such an arrest, and the defendant has the right to fight for these charges to be dropped at once.

What is Probable Cause?

A police officer is legally allowed to arrest any person who they reasonably believe to be either in the process of committing a crime, or has already committed a crime. For example, a law enforcement officer could arrest someone who first jumped over a fence that was marked private property, and then fled the officer on foot after the officer ordered them to stop. In this scenario, the suspect could be handcuffed, searched, and arrested simply for fleeing arrest on foot, let alone any other potential crimes that they did or did not commit. Often, police use the vague term “suspicious activity” for making an arrest. However, you cannot be lawfully arrested or stopped based on a police officer’s gut feeling that you committed a crime. There must be a higher standard of evidence to suggest that you did in fact commit a crime, or were in the process of doing so.

You Can Be Detained for Virtually Any Reason

Unfortunately, the standard of evidence is much lower for being detained and questioned. The police officer does not need to have probable cause to do a pat down, search your vehicle, interrogate you, and detain you. If you have been detained or arrested, you need to immediately contact an attorney.

Call an Attorney Before You Accidentally Incriminate Yourself While Being Detained

Remaining silent is your right, even though many Americans do not fully comprehend this. In fact, a study found that 10 percent of arrests were compromised due to violations of the Miranda Rights, according to the American Psychological Association. Call a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today before speaking with the police.



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