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State Supreme Court Rulings Change Search Warrant Laws

In a new ruling, The Tennessean reports, the Tennessee Supreme Court has changed the standard law enforcement needs in order to receive a search warrant based on evidence provided by confidential informants. In the past, a confidential informant needed to have both knowledge and be deemed a trustworthy source of information. The new ruling changes a 28-year old decision making the new standard for evidence to be judged worth of a warrant based on the "totality of the circumstances."

Some worry that the new ruling in State of Tennessee v. Jerry L. Tuttle is broadening the power provided to law enforcement, but the Court wrote in their decision that the U.S. Supreme Court uses the same test, as do many other states in the country.

Another recent ruling, State of Tennessee v. Christensen, also has implications for searches. Nashville Scene reports that posting "No Trespassing" signs on one's property does not prevent law enforcement or the public from assuming they have the right to enter the premises. The Court ruled that while a locked gate or a fence hinders the public's assumed rights to approach a property, signs alone do not.

There are concerns amongst some criminal defense lawyers that these rulings will infringe on Tennesseans' constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure. Critics say that expanding the ability of law enforcement agents to search could hurt innocent citizens, but others are happy to see these changes and view them as a win for victims of crime. Either way, with new additions to the Tennessee Supreme Court in recent years, there have been a number of decision reversals of late that are sure to cause change across the Volunteer State.

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