What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause generally refers to the requirement in criminal law that police have adequate reason to arrest someone, conduct a search, or seize property relating to an alleged crime. Probable cause allows for police authorities to rightfully conduct acts of enforcement such as, performing personal or property searches, obtaining warrants, and pressing charges. Probable cause refers to the amount and quality of information required in order to, justly and legally fulfill these certain acts of enforcement.
The concept of probable cause is crucial in determining whether actions by law enforcement were correctly justified, which is presented by the individual facts of a specific case.
Determining whether actions by law enforcement were supported by probable cause often depends on the unique facts of your case. To learn more about probable cause, or to discuss your particular case, contact our office for a free phone consultation.
What is a Preliminary Examination?
A preliminary examination is a specific court evidentiary hearing held before a magistrate court judge to examine and consider the given evidence along with any witnesses, while also viewing if probable cause supports the charges being made. A preliminary examination is conducted in a similar fashion to a trial. Witnesses and evidence are put forth by the district attorney. Unlike a trial, however, no jury is present and the standard to determine if probable exists is lower than that of the standard to determine your guilt/innocence. The judge will make both the rulings of law and determine if there enough evidence to rule that a crime was probably committed.
This is not the time to put on your defense. This is the time for your attorney to argue and attack the evidence that the state did not present sufficient evidence for the judge to determine that a crime was probably committed. Sometimes, strategically, it is in your best interest to “waive” your right to a preliminary examination. You should discuss this with your attorney to ensure you understand what you are giving up and what this will mean for your case.
In New Mexico, preliminary examinations shall be scheduled no later than ten days from the date the defendant has been in custody, and no later than sixty days if the defendant is not in custody. Within the examination, the defendant has the right to a legal counsel for further assistance.
At the conclusion of the preliminary examination, the magistrate court judge will examine the evidence and determine if there is “probable cause” to support the charges. If the magistrate court judge finds there is, your case will move to District Court, where you have the opportunity to present your defense. If the magistrate court judge finds there is no probable cause your case will me dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the state can file at a later time should they choose to. Generally, the state will do so if they obtain additional evidence to support probable cause.