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Court: OK to get search warrant by phone

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Decision reverses 2011 ruling; no need for judges to see written statement

SANTA FE – Police in New Mexico can obtain search warrants over the telephone from a judge, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Judges don’t have to see in writing the sworn statement from authorities that provides the probable cause for issuing a search warrant, the justices said in a unanimous decision.

The ruling came in a case involving Lester and Carol Boyse of Mesilla, who were sentenced in 2010 to five years’ probation after pleading no contest to more than 100 charges of animal cruelty.

Authorities searched the couple’s southern New Mexico property in 2008 and found about 100 cats inside their home, including four dead cats in a freezer.

The state District Court in Las Cruces rejected a request by the couple to exclude any evidence seized in the search. They contended the state constitution requires a “written showing” of probable cause to obtain a warrant.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the couple, ruling in 2011 that telephonic search warrants aren’t permitted.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying the law allows for the showing of probable cause for a search warrant when there is “a presentation or statement of facts that can be made through audible or other sensory means as well as through visual means.”

In the Boyse case, an officer of the Mesilla Marshal’s Department finished preparing a written affidavit for the search warrant application after a court was closed. But the sworn statement was read over the telephone to a magistrate judge, who then approved the warrant.

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