The first stage of criminal procedure that directly involves the suspect of a crime is the arrest. Often times, a criminal investigation is conducted long before an arrest is made without the suspect's knowledge. An investigation may include interviewing the victim, witnesses and/or suspects; collecting physical evidence; visiting, viewing, photographing and/or measuring the crime scene; identifying suspects through photo arrays or line-ups, etc. The police may even attempt to directly interview a suspect before an arrest in Pennsylvania; if that occurs the suspect should immediately demand an attorney before consenting to any conversation or questioning by the authorities.
For additional tips to protect your rights during a police investigation or following a PA arrest review our information on a suspect's rights.
A Legal Arrest in Pennsylvania Must be Supported by Probable Cause
For an arrest warrant, search warrant, or warrantless arrest to be legal in Pennsylvania it must be supported by Probable Cause as dictated by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and sections seven and eight of the Constitution of Pennsylvania. Probable Cause is a technical term of great legal significance and complexity. In short, it means that "reasonable grounds" must exist for a person to be arrested or searched by the authorities. Case law explains that probable cause is the existence of circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe in the guilt of the arrested person. However, mere suspicion or belief that is unsupported by facts or circumstances is insufficient to support a legal arrest. If probable cause does exist it justifies an officer's arrest without the existence of an arrest warrant.
The question of probable cause is extremely important in any criminal case. It always must be scrutinized and will result in the dismissal of a case if it is lacking. Nevertheless, even when probable cause exists, doubt still exists concerning the suspect's guilt. In other words, probable cause is not enough to support a conviction. A PA conviction must be supported a much more difficult standard of proof, specifically, by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.