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|Investigating and charging crimes|
|Arrest warrant · Search warrant|
|Probable cause · Knock and announce|
|Search and seizure · Arrest|
|Right to silence · Miranda warning (U.S.)|
|Statute of limitations · Nolle prosequi|
|Bill of attainder · Ex post facto law|
|Criminal jurisdiction · Extradition|
|Habeas corpus · Bail|
|Inquisitorial system · Adversarial system|
|Charges and pleas|
|Arraignment · Indictment|
|Plea · Peremptory plea|
|Nolo contendere (U.S.) · Plea bargain|
|Related areas of law|
|Criminal law · Evidence|
|Portals: Law · Criminal justice|
In United States criminal law, probable cause refers to the standard by which a police officer may make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search or obtain a warrant. It is also used to refer to the standard to which a grand jury believes that a crime has been committed. This term comes from the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. — Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The most widely held common definition would be "a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed" and that the person is linked to the crime with the same degree of certainty. An alternative definition has been proposed, "reason to believe that an injury had criminal cause", which is claimed to be more protective of individual rights as was intended by the authors of the Bill of Rights.
In the context of warrants, the Oxford Companion to American Law defines probable cause as "information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime (for an arrest warrant) or that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search (for a search warrant)." "Probable cause" is a stronger standard of evidence than a reasonable suspicion, but weaker than what is required to secure a criminal conviction. Even hearsay can supply probable cause if it is from a reliable source or is supported by other evidence.
 Accident investigation
The term is used in accident investigation to describe the conclusions reached by the investigating body as to the factor or factors which caused the accident. This is primarily seen in reports on aircraft accidents, but the term is used for the conclusion of diverse types of transportation accidents investigated in the United States by the National Transportation Safety Board or its predecessor, the Civil Aeronautics Board.
 Related cases
The Supreme Court decision Illinois v. Gates (1983) lowered the threshold of probable cause by ruling that a "substantial chance" or "fair probability" of criminal activity could establish probable cause. A better-than-even chance is not required.
In United States v. Matlock, 415 U. S. 164 (1974), the Court announced the "co-occupant consent rule" which permits one resident to consent in the co-occupant's absence. The case established that an officer who makes a search with a reasonable belief that the search was consented to by a resident does not have to provide a probable cause for the search. However, in Georgia v. Randolph, 126 S. Ct. 1515 (2006) the Supreme Court ruled, when ofﬁcers are presented with a situation wherein two parties, each having authority to grant consent to search premises they share, but one objects over the other’s consent, the ofﬁcers must adhere to the wishes of the non-consenting party.
New Jersey v. T. L. O. (1985) set a special precedent for searches of students at school. The Court ruled that school officials act as state officers when conducting searches, and do not require probable cause to search students' belongings, only reasonable suspicion.
 Probable cause hearings
In the United States a probable cause hearing is the preliminary hearing that typically takes place after arraignment and before a serious crime goes to trial; the judge is presented with the basis of the prosecution's case and the defendant is afforded full right of cross-examination and the right to be represented by legal counsel. If the prosecution cannot make out a case of probable cause the court must dismiss the case against the accused. See also: evidentiary hearing.