Probable Cause Is Not Really a Huge Barrier For Police

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You know what really gets me about the recent Supreme Court case over police access to cell phone location records? It’s not as if anyone was trying to take away their ability to get them. All anyone wanted was for police to get a warrant showing probable cause. That’s it.

Why is that treated as such a big deal? Police show probable cause all the time even in fairly flimsy cases, and judges routinely grant them search warrants. I don’t understand why anyone thinks this minimal protection is too much to ask in return for access to complete and total movement data on an American citizen. The alternative, “reasonable grounds” as determined by the police themselves, is essentially nothing. In the opinion of a detective, after all, there are always reasonable grounds.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal adds this:

Several states, including California, Massachusetts and Utah, as well as a number of local governments, have adopted measures requiring police to obtain warrants for such searches with little apparent impact on crime rates.

That certainly would have been my guess.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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