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Court Opens Door To Searches Without Warrants

The New Orleans Channel | March 27 2004

NEW ORLEANS -- It's a groundbreaking court decision that legal experts say will affect everyone: Police officers in Louisiana no longer need a search or arrest warrant to conduct a brief search of your home or business.

Leaders in law enforcement say it will provide safety to officers, but others argue it's a privilege that could be abused.

The decision was made by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two dissenting judges called it the "road to Hell."

The ruiling stems from a lawsuit filed in Denham Springs in 2000.

New Orleans Police Department spokesman Capt. Marlon Defillo said the new power will go into effect immediately and won't be abused.

"We have to have a legitimate problem to be there in the first place, and if we don't, we can't conduct the search," Defillo said.

But former U.S. Attorney Julian Murray has big problems with the ruling.

"I think it goes way too far," Murray said, noting that the searches can be performed if an officer fears for his safety -- a subjective condition.

Defillo said he doesn't envision any problems in New Orleans, but if there are, they will be handled.

"There are checks and balances to make sure the criminal justce system works in an effective manor," Defillo said.

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