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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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