While police officers are permitted and mandated to make arrests when proper evidence is submitted, in many situations concrete evidence is not as necessary for an arrest to be made, as probable cause is required.
Reasonable or probable cause for an arrest only exists for an officer when the facts are sufficient to cause a person of average intelligence to believe that the soon-to-be defendant committed the alleged crime.
Once the police officer decides he or she has probable cause, one of several things can happen:
• The officer can make an arrest, especially if the misdemeanor or felony is committed in the police officer’s presence.
• If the offense is minor, as in a local ordinance, the police officer can issue an appearance ticket, which provides instructions as to how and where to address the criminal allegation. If a ticket is issued, the individual is not arrested unless he or she fails to appear in court at the mandated time.
• In some more lengthy cases, there may be a delay based upon the need to interview other witnesses or search for new evidence or probable cause. This could include gathering and testing forensic evidence. Additionally, records may need to be obtained. Upon conclusion of the investigation, a police officer or detective speaks with a prosecutor, attorney general, or necessary officials and submits the information they have concerning the allegation. The police officer or detective is often times directed by the prosecutor, attorney general, or city attorney to make a further investigation in order to make a proper probable cause determination. Arrest may take place after these steps are taken.
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