Writing Better Police Reports: Probable Cause
- 1. Writing Better Police Reports: Probable Cause by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.
- 2. Writing Better Police Reports: Probable Cause by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.
- 3. Law enforcement officers must have “probable cause” for conducting a traffic stop or making a search.
- 4. So what is “probable cause,” and how do you document it?
- 5. “Probable cause” means recording facts that justify your actions.
- 6. Fear, anger, a hunch, a suspicion…these aren’t enough.
- 7. The United States Constitution protects the rights of American citizens. That means…
- 8. …a judge may throw out your case if you didn’t provide probable cause.
- 9. Probable cause must be documented in every report.
- 10. If you were dispatched to a scene, “probable cause” will not be a problem. You were told to get involved.
- 11. But what if you were acting on your own?
- 12. You need to record facts that show you had “probable cause”: You heard a scream.
- 13. You saw… drug paraphernalia a broken window
- 14. A driver crossed a line twice.
- 15. Other examples include… •A man who’s running and looking over his shoulder •Light and movement in an abandoned building •A man tightly holding the wrist of a woman who’s struggling to get away
- 16. Vehicle searches require probable cause. Stopping a car for a driving violation isn’t sufficient.
- 17. Did you see the driver throw or hide something?
- 18. Sometimes behavior can provide probable cause…eyes that jump nervously from side to side.
- 19. …trembling hands, inconsistent answers to your questions.
- 20. When you write your report, be sure to include these details.
- 21. Documenting “probable cause” in a report demonstrates your professionalism…
- 22. And can result in a successful prosecution.
- 23. To learn more about report writing…
- 24. The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers is available from www.Amazon.com for $17.95. View a free sample online.
- 25. An e-book edition is available from www.Smashwords.comfo r $11.99.
- 26. A free Instructor’s Manual is available on request: Send an email to jreynoldswrite at aol.com.
- 27. And check out the free resources at www.YourPoliceWrite.com.
Police officers often need to document "probable cause" in their reports - justification for taking action such as making a traffic stop, performing a search, or…