Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Doubt

An interesting distinction has emerged in the case of the 16-year-old Bainbridge teen arrested last week after police served a search warrant on his house.

Police developed their suspicion — or probable cause — for his arrest through their investigation of threats of violence at Bainbridge High School.

This probable cause was the rationale for the search warrant of the boy’s house that a judge approved. However, police ultimately arrested him on suspicion of crimes that were more or less unrelated to their search warrant application (though I could see an argument that they were related).

But I had to pose the question: is it common for suspected crimes in a search warrant to fall through, while suspected ones during the search warrant application become charges that stick by prosecutors?

Yes, according to the deputy prosecutor and defense attorney in this case, and Bainbridge deputy police chief Mark Duncan.

“I don’t think it’s unusual at all,” said Todd Dowell, deputy prosecutor in the juvenile division of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office. “You might find the crimes (in the search warrant) to be not the same for what you went in for,” Dowell said.

Duncan notes this as a “difference between probable cause and reasonable doubt.” Police require a reasonable suspicion crimes are being suspicion. But juries and judges need proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” to make a conviction.

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