Probable Cause Necessary Before Arrest Warrants, Rules Supreme Court

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The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this morning that in order to issue an arrest warrant, the court must find probable cause. The decision stems from a case in which the Toledo Municipal Court issued arrest warrants for a man accused of theft. The Ohio high court's ruling invalidates the municipal court's arrest warrants because it did not possess the necessary probable cause to issue them.

There is another facet to this case, however. While the court did not have necessary probable cause, the arresting officers did obtain warrants after following lawful procedures. Because the officers issued the warrants lawfully, the evidence they obtained against the defendant will not be excluded from the case.

Not all municipal courts in Ohio operate the way the Toledo court has been operating for nearly two decades. According to Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, the Toledo Municipal court had been in violation of the U.S. and Ohio constitutions due to issuing warrants prior to proof of probable cause.

This entire debate centers on the individual's constitutional rights, specifically, the Fourth Amendment, which states that a person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and that no warrant shall be issued without probable cause.

There is one exception to this rule that was adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1986 and, according to Justice Lanzinger, this rule allows for some warrants without probable cause in cases when "police conduct a search in objectively reasonable, good-faith reliance upon binding appellate precedent."

To learn more about Brandon Lee Hoffman v. State of Ohio, you can view the analysis, view the Ohio Supreme Court Opinion, or watch the oral argument.