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Warrant or No Warrant-State Supreme Court to Decide

Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2015 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people do not realize that law enforcement officials do not have to get a search warrant from a judge to obtain private bank, phone, email and other records. Currently, prosecutors have been able to get these records without showing probable cause — the standard that applies to search warrants. Instead, they can get this information with a subpoena issued in a secret hearing called a “special inquiry.”

That could change, as Washington’s Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether police investigators should have to get a search warrant to obtain these records.

Many attorneys argue this current procedure is a violation of Washington’s Constitution, which is considered to be more protective of people’s privacy than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prosecutors argue that the hearings are akin to grand jury proceedings without the grand jury — that they’re an efficient way to tackle complex crimes and that they do meet constitutional requirements.

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