HOW MUCH EVIDENCE DOES THE STATE NEED TO GET AN ARREST WARRANT?
The amount of evidence that the police need before they can get an arrest warrant is easy to state but difficult to understand as it is an abstract principle. In general, the police must have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person they are seeking to arrest committed the crime. Probable cause is a standard of evidence that is more than a suspicion but less than the level of evidence required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In practice, probable cause is often established through a combination of evidence, including witness statements, physical evidence, and the results of investigations such as surveillance or search warrant. In some cases, an arrest warrant may be issued based on the testimony of a single credible witness, while in others, a more extensive investigation and a stronger body of evidence may be required.
Probable cause is a standard of evidence that is required for certain actions by law enforcement, such as making an arrest, conducting a search, or obtaining a warrant. It is the level of evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person being arrested or the place being searched is connected to the crime. Probable cause is more than a mere suspicion, but it is not as high a standard of evidence as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard required for a conviction in a criminal trial. It means that the facts and circumstances known to the police officer at the time of the arrest or search are sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime.
Probable cause is determined based on the "totality of the circumstances", which means that a judge or other neutral decision-maker will consider all of the information and evidence available in order to determine whether probable cause exists. This can include witness statements, physical evidence, surveillance, and other types of investigation,
Probable cause must be established based on specific facts and not on generalities, broad assumptions or even suspicions.
This case addresses the following issue: State v. Abu-Isba, 685 P.2d 856 (Kan. 1984).
What evidence must the State have to get a warrant?
The court explored the question of what evidence the State must have to issue a warrant. In addressing this question, the court explained that in determining whether to issue a warrant for arrest or search, the judge should consider all of the circumstances presented and make a practical, common sense decision whether there was a fair probability that a crime had been committed and that the defendant committed the crime, or that contraband or evidence of crime would be found in a particular place. Id. at 860.
The defendant, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, was charged with communicating a terroristic threat after he was dismissed from the graduate program and denied readmission. Id. at 860. On May 18, 1962, the defendant went to see a faculty member concerning his readmission application. Id. When the faculty member informed the defendant that his readmission application had been denied, the defendant got upset and yelled, “I will destroy you before you leave the university.” Id. From May 18 until May 27, the defendant continued to visit the faculty member’s office one to three times per day and told the faculty member that he would keep up his visits until he did what the defendant wanted. Id. The faculty member testified that he believed the defendant was threatening his life and that the threat had changed his life. Id. at 860. After the case was prosecuted in the district court, the defendant was found guilty of communicating a terroristic threat to the faculty member. Id.
The defendant argued that the State’s complaint and the supporting affidavit did not contain sufficient factual information to support an independent determination that probable cause to arrest existed. Id. In order to address the defendant’s argument, the court first noted that before a warrant for arrest or search may be issued, there must be a finding of probable cause by a neutral and detached judge. Id. Additionally, the court stated that the complaint should supply the judge with sufficient factual information to support an independent judgment that probable cause to arrest existed; mere conclusions were not sufficient to support such a finding. Id.
The court defined probable cause as the reasonable ground for belief that a specific crime had been committed and that the defendant had committed or was committing it. Id. Moreover, probable cause existed if the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge and of which he had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense had been or was being committed. Id.
In determining whether to issue a warrant for arrest or search, the court stated that the judge should consider all of the circumstances presented and make a practical, common sense decision whether there was a fair probability that a crime had been committed and that the defendant committed the crime, or that contraband or evidence of crime would be found in a particular place. Id. In the defendant’s case, the arrest warrant was issued by the judge based on the State’s complaint and supporting affidavits. Id. at 861. The court determined that the complaint defined the offense of communicating a terroristic threat and that the affidavits established probable cause. Id. In sum, probable cause to arrest the defendant existed. Id.