5/12/16 Probable Cause


There’s no shortage of action movies where the hero cop uses intuition to make the big arrest.  He’€™ll kick-in a front door and catch the bad guys moments before the big criminal act.  Pure Hollywood.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

A review of 2,000 warrants over a two-year period found the DC Police Department often relied on intuition like they do in the movies.

But it’s unconstitutional.

Nearly 300 warrants –€“ about 1 in 7 — were approved by judges even though there was no evidence of possible illegal activity.  This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards the public against “unreasonable searches.”€ 

Judges may approve warrant requests when there’s a reasonable suspicion supported by facts that criminal activity may be afoot.  Or evidence of a crime could be collected. 

Instead, judges gave their okay nearly 300 times when DC police officers offered only their training and experience as justification.  In other words, a hunch.

But it doesn’t matter how compelling a cop is when he offers intuition as his reason when seeking a warrant.  Even judges must abide by the law and honor the Constitution.

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