Future Crime Warrant: Police Can Get Search Warrants Based on Predictions of Future Crimes

December 19, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

The “future crime warrant,” where police can get search warrants based on predictions of future crimes, has been made legal in Texas.

The ruling came based on a stake-out of a man’s home in the summer of 2010.

Police in Parker County believed that Michael Fred Wehrenberg was looking to cook meth, so officers walked through the front door around midnight and handcuffed everyone in the house.

But police didn’t have a search warrant. They obtained one after the fact, following the seizure of a range of materials, such as boxes of pseudoephedrine and stripped lithium batteries, reported the Dallas Observer. The officers didn’t mention this on the warrant application, naming a confidential informant as their source of information.

Wehrenberg’s lawyers argued that the materials shouldn’t be allowed as evidence because they were taken illegally. The judge dismissed this argument, citing the “independent source doctrine” that allows illegally seized evidence a third party told police about beforehand, and Wehrenberg was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty.

A higher court agreed with the lawyers, overturning the ruling, but an even higher court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that ruling. 

Lisa McMinn, the attorney who prosecuted the appeals case on behalf of the state, said that the search was based on an informant and that the search warrant clearly stated so.

But CCA Judge Lawrence Meyers, the only judge in dissent, disagreed.

He wrote:

“It is obvious to me that this search warrant was obtained based upon the officers’ unlawful entry into [Wehrenberg]’s residence. There was more than enough time to secure a search warrant before the officers’ intrusion into the premises, but they deliberately chose not to attempt to obtain it until after they had conducted the unlawful entry. Further, had the officers entered the home and found the occupants only baking cupcakes, the officers would not have bothered to then obtain the warrant at all. It was only after unlawfully entering and finding suspicious activity that they felt the need to then secure the warrant in order to cover their tracks and collect the evidence without the taint of their entry.”

In conclusion, he said: “Search warrants may now be based on predictions of the commission of future crimes.”

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