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Missouri House passes bill to require warrants for tracking

Search and seizure issues continue to make the news. The Constitution provides important guarantees to limit the government’s authority to intrude on our private lives. Police cannot simply go house-to-house hoping to find evidence to support criminal charges for no reason at all. The warrant requirement has been argued in all kinds of cases throughout our country’s history.

Many of these arguments focus upon specific types of cases, such as last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Missouri DWI case where the court ruled that in a routine drunk driving investigation, police should generally obtain a warrant to draw a person’s blood. The ruling is not absolute, and prosecutors may often try to make legal arguments to make exceptions to our constitutional principles. Criminal defense lawyers, on the other hand may argue vigorously in favor of following the Constitution.

As time goes by, our technology continues to advance and become more pervasive in our daily lives. The issue of the warrant requirement and electronic devices has led to a variety of complicated issues and arguments in criminal cases involving technological devices.

The Missouri House has overwhelmingly passed a measure aimed at requiring law enforcement in Missouri to seek a warrant before tracking the location of electronic devices-- with a couple of defined exceptions.

A sponsor of the house bill believes that the statutory law may provide law enforcement and the courts with more clarity on how to deal with electronic tracking in the state. The bill is not without some opposition. Some have complained that requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant could be cumbersome in criminal investigations.

The final tally Thursday in the house was 134 in favor, with 13 representatives voting against the measure. The bill will be sent to the Missouri Senate for consideration next.

Source: KOMU, “Mo. House Passes Curb on Electronic Tracking,” The Associated Press, Mar. 13, 2014

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