Definition of Probable Cause

Probable cause exists if there are reasonable grounds for believing discrimination has occurred. Wilson v. Hayes, 464 N.W.2d 250, 261-62 (Iowa 1990) (citing 52 Am.Jur.2d Malicious Prosecution §51 at 219). A determination of probable cause is made after an investigation and is based on “facts and circumstances that would be sufficient to induce a reasonable belief in the truth of the [claim].” In re Det. of Mead, 790 N.W.2d 104, 111 (Iowa 2010), rehearing denied (Dec. 10, 2010). See, also, Shaul v. Brown, 28 Iowa 37, 47, 4 Am. Rep. 151 (Iowa 1869) (stating, “Without entering at length into the discussion, we may remark that the question of probable cause in every case involves first the ascertainment of the facts from the evidence, and then the application of the law to the facts ascertained.”).

 

Neither the Iowa Code nor the Iowa Administrative Code define “probable cause” or provide guidance on making a probable cause determination. Klein v. Dubuque Human Rights Commission, 829 N.W.2d 190 (Iowa Ct. App. 2013). Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term variously as “having more evidence than against[, and a] reasonable ground for belief in the existence of facts warranting the proceedings complained of.” Id. (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 1081 (5th ed.)). The test for probable cause is whether there are reasonable grounds to believe the assertion.  Children v. Burton, 331 N.W.2d 673, 679 (Iowa 1983).  In contrast to the preponderance of evidence standard applicable at the public hearing, the test for probable cause is whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that the Iowa Civil Rights Act has been violated.   A finding of probable cause means it has been determined, based on our investigation, that there is sufficient evidence to support such a belief.