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What constitutes probable cause?

Much has been said about there being constitutional guarantees for people suspected of committing a crime, and that there must be probable cause before someone can be arrested. But, what does this mean for Ohio residents?

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires probable cause before an arrest is made, a search is conducted or a warrant received. Probable cause is not specified within the Constitution though, which is why it falls on courts to determine what qualifies as probable cause. This becomes especially tricky in the digital age. Traditionally, it has been used for physical seizures of tangible property, the digital age is upon us, and courts are trying to determine boundaries of what police can and cannot do.

In 2014, the Supreme Court held that police could not search the cellphone seized from someone who has been arrested, without a warrant. This seems to place cellphones in the same category as other physical items and subject to the same search and seizure rules.

However, what happens when phone companies share location data with law-enforcement agents? This has become the crux of a 2017 case, where the accused is contesting that when phone companies divulge information about his whereabouts with enforcement agents, it violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and the outcome would likely be a seminal one.

Getting arrested is an overwhelming experience, whether the charges are accurate or not. Knowing that one has certain rights in this situation is important and exercising them in a timely manner could be an integral part of one's defense against charges revolving around drug crimes, among others.

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