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Colorado Probable Cause Laws

You’re driving home from a night out and you are stopped by the police. They decide they want to search your car based on suspicion. You’re not 100 percent sure what the Colorado probable cause laws are, so you let them and they find some evidence that can be used against you to form a case. This situation can happen to anyone that an officer of the law comes across who is driving and who looks suspicious. It’s essential when you are pulled over by an officer of the law, that you know your rights. As a criminal lawyer, we want you to know your rights in the State of Colorado. From probable cause to what to do when you have a DUI, our criminal lawyers at Roselle & Breitigam, P.C. can help you. As a law firm that covers the Fort Collins, CO, area, we want you to be protected. If you find yourself in a situation where you need an experienced and reliable criminal lawyer, then call Roselle & Breitigam, P.C.

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Probable cause was formed due to the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Probable cause is a prerequisite for an arrest or to do a search and a seizure of property that is related to a crime that may have taken place. An officer of the law has to have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed before they can arrest someone. When it comes to your home, probable cause must be present so a court can issue a warrant for the arrest of someone or for the search and seizure of property. If an officer of the law doesn’t have a warrant, then they need probable cause to make an arrest or do a search and seizure of the property.

When it comes to lawyers, to charge a person with a crime, the prosecutor needs probable cause. In the example in the introduction, if you’re pulled over and a police officer wants to search your car, they need probable cause to be able to legally search the vehicle. This means that an officer of the law must have evidence that you were involved in criminal activity. If an officer has a hunch that you did something illegal, then they aren’t legally able to search your car. Additionally, probable cause includes a smell or items being in plain sight, which is a cause to search your vehicle.


In the State of Colorado, probable cause is under Article II, Section 7, of the Colorado Constitution. In the Colorado Constitution, it says that as a resident of Colorado, you’re able to be free from any type of unreasonable search and seizure by any type of law enforcement. If you are ever charged with any crime that is based on a portion or an entirety of evidence that is acquired during an unlawful search, then the criminal lawyer you hired can file a motion to have the evidence suppressed. If the motion is passed, then the evidence that was supposed to be used against you in a court of law can be tossed out due to the illegal search. If the evidence is tossed out, then it can lead to any of the charges that were brought against you to be reduced and thrown out altogether.

One of the reasons we want to go over probable cause with you in the State of Colorado is because if you understand it better, then you’re able to protect yourself from any illegal searches. We’ll go over what an officer of the law can legally and illegally do when it comes to probable cause and search and seizures.


So, the first question and one of the most important is to address what a police officer can legally do. If you’re in a car, what an officer can do is a little more of a grey area. When you’re in your home and a police officer wants to come in, it’s very obvious they need the warrant to search the premises. When it comes to a car, even though it’s your property it can be a little misleading. An officer of the law and this includes different law enforcement departments such as the ATF and ICE have to abide by the same laws as the state and the local police in the state they are in. As a resident of Colorado, you are protected against unreasonable search and seizures. When it comes to the police and other law enforcement agencies, they are unable to search your property or yourself unless they have a warrant from a judge or the search they want to do is within the limitations that are recognized as warrant requirements by both Colorado and federal courts.


So when is it the time for a search warrant? What do you need to know about when a search warrant is actually valid in comparison to when they aren’t? A valid search warrant under both Colorado and the U.S. Constitution is when there is a base for probable cause, a warrant is executed in a legal fashion by a federal or a Colorado judge, there is support via a written oath or an affirmation, and the warrant has an accurate description of the place that needs to be searched or the person or the piece of property that is going to be seized.


One of the most important factors to consider about probable cause laws, as well as search warrants, are the exceptions. Like every law, there are some exceptions, which can help you in the long run when you’re dealing with a possible arrest. A police officer doesn’t need a search warrant if you give voluntary consent to a search. This means if a police officer asks to search your car and you say ‘yes’ they can legally do it. If an officer is performing a protective sweep of a region where an incident occurred that leads to a lawful arrest and there is a search for a dangerous situation taking place. For example, if someone is hiding and the police are trying to find them. Another exception to search warrants is if a police officer is doing a stop and frisk, which is also called a Terry stop. When it comes to a vehicle, a police officer can have probable cause if there’s evidence of a crime that’s been committed. This is called an automobile exception to a warrant requirement. As we touched on above, this can mean smelling something or seeing something that demonstrates a crime has taken place. Lastly, if an officer notices an incriminating object that is in plain sight while he or she is engaged in a lawful search, then that’s an exception as well.

At Roselle & Breitigam, P.C., our focus areas are DUI defensedrug chargesstudent criminal defensetheft and property crimefelony and misdemeanorsdomestic violenceprobation revocation, and traffic tickets. If you’re in need of a criminal lawyer, then reach out to our law firm.