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Future crime warrant: Police can get warrants for predictions of future crime?

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A future crime warrant, which gives police the power to obtain a search warrant based on a prediction of a future crime, is cause for concern and some are afraid that it could mean that we are heading towards a ‘predictive policing’ era in which our constitutional rights will be placed in jeopardy, says a Dec. 18 report from Alternet. The ruling on the controversial future crime warrant came from an incident that occurred in 2010 after Texas police were tipped off by an informant that a man, Michael Fred Wehrenberg, and his alleged partners in crime were about to cook meth.

As reported by the Dallas Observer, police barged into Wehrenberg's house (without a search warrant) and the men were placed in handcuffs while police conducted a search of the property. During their warrantless search, they uncovered boxes of pseudoephedrine, stripped lithium batteries, and other meth-making materials.

After police had already searched the property and made the incriminating discovery, they went to the judge and asked him to grant them a warrant to search the house. The incident is now known as a so-called future crime warrant case. Authorities failed to mention that they didn't have a warrant prior to searching the house on their warrant application, citing a confidential informant as their only source of information.

"Wehrenberg's lawyers argued during materials that the seized materials had been taken illegally and shouldn't be allowed as evidence. The motion was denied -- the trial court cited federal 'independent source doctrine,' which allows illegally seized evidence a third party told them about beforehand -- and Wehrenberg pleaded guilty to one count of possession and one count of intent to manufacture, getting five years in prison," the Dallas Observer wrote.

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The future crime warrant triggered a fierce and angry response from the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, Texas and they said the case is a clear violation of constitutional rights as well as police misconduct and they overturned the lower court's ruling.

However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals made the final decision in the future crime warrant case and last week, they agreed with the initial trial court. The report indicates that the decision was a majority opinion, and the presiding judge explained that while Texas' "exclusionary rule" bans illegally seized evidence from trial, federal precedent dictates that it can be introduced if it was first confirmed by an independent source.

Scott Henson, who first reported the case, was appalled at the future crime warrant ruling and he issued the following statement.

"But the actions of police in the case don't pass the smell test," he writes. "If their informant was so credible, why not go to the judge for a search warrant in the 3-4 hours before their illegal entry? The judge was available in the middle of the night, so there's little basis to believe they couldn't have gotten it earlier. And why conceal the fact that they'd already swept the house and detained the suspects in the search warrant application if everything was on the up and up?"

CCA Judge Lawrence Meyers agreed with Henson because he was the only justice to dissent. However, the majority's decision on the future crime warrant now means that "search warrants may now be based on predictions of the commission of future crimes," which is definitely an alarming thing.

The future crime warrant may remind some of the movie, "Minority Report," in which visions of the future were generated by three "precogs", mutated humans with precognitive abilities, in order to stop murders before they happen.

What do you think of the future crime warrant decision? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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