How Is Probable Cause Determined in Maryland?

Most people are aware of the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. One protection is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The other requires that police only get a warrant that is particular and supported by probable cause.

The Supreme Court has ruled that searches and seizures conducted without a judicial warrant are presumptively unreasonable. This is because a neutral magistrate has not determined, in those cases, that there is probable cause to search or seize a particular property. This broad requirement for a warrant has several well-established exceptions. For example, a police officer may make a warrantless arrest when he or she has probable cause to believe the arrestee has committed a felony or attempted to commit a felony.

In a recent case, the defendant was convicted for robbery, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault, and theft. The defendant was apprehended when an officer, driving up in a marked police vehicle, saw him abandon his bike and run away near the scene of a robbery that had taken place the day before. The man’s flight, to the officer, suggested a guilty conscience. Also, the defendant looked like the description of the perpetrator of the recent robbery: a black male between 6 ft. 1 inches and 6 foot 3 inches with cornrows. The defendant went by the nickname “B” and “B” was the initial given in a previous lineup for the robbery.

The defendant ran into an apartment. The police officer radioed for back-up and when a perimeter was set up, he went up to the apartment door and banged on it. A woman let him into the apartment and she and her children left. The defendant came out 20-25 minutes later and the SWAT team searched the apartment.

The defendant argued that certain evidence should be suppressed because it had been procured unconstitutionally. He argued there was no probable cause for the police to arrest him after he ran off, abandoning his bike.

The defendant argued that the State had relied on evidence he fit the description of a person who had committed robberies in that area without presenting evidence about the sources or their reliability. He also argued that the State didn’t establish where the incriminating evidence was found or whether it was found in a common area where there was authorization to search.

The police testified that they had been given verbal consent by the woman, an apartment leaseholder, to search the apartment. The defendant was a “co-tenant” of the apartment. Case law has established that a co-tenant can give consent to a search and seizure in an apartment even if the other tenant has not consented.

The appellate court explained that the totality of circumstances are considered in determining whether probable cause exists. This includes the environment, the police’s purpose and the suspect’s behavior. In order to have probable cause, an officer at the time of the arrest must have reasonably trustworthy information, sufficient to warrant a prudent person believing the suspect had committed a crime.

Probable cause requires less evidence than what is necessary to show at trial in order to secure a conviction, but more evidence than would be aroused by a mere suspicion. Among other things, the appellate court concluded that the police had probable cause to pursue and arrest the defendant when he abandoned his bike and did not try to get it back.

Criminal charges are serious. Consult an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to get the best defense for your case. Contact Anthony A. Fatemi and his legal team for a consultation at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More Blogs

Maryland Court Rules Assault May Occur Even Victims Not Present, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 10. 2013

Maryland Appellate Court Rules Against Defendant Who Cut a Police Dog, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 7, 2013



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