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Get a warrant

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Sunday, March 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

The Internet makes heinous sexual predation against children easier. But that's no reason to allow Pennsylvania law enforcers to sidestep the Fourth Amendment.

State House Bill 90, sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, would allow police investigating online child predators to get “administrative subpoenas” from the state Attorney General's Office or district attorneys instead of having to obtain search warrants from judges. These subpoenas would force Internet service providers to turn over subscribers' names, addresses and Internet addresses.

Citing such probes' need for speed, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association favor HB 90. And federal law allows the use of such subpoenas. But that doesn't mean Pennsylvania should make the same mistake.

Unlike judge-issued warrants that limit searches' scope to particular people and places, administrative subpoenas could be enforced outside their issuing jurisdictions — “even beyond Pennsylvania's borders,” the Pennsylvania Independent says.

Add the potential for abuse inherent in any weakening of the Fourth Amendment, and these administrative subpoenas amount to unreasonable search and seizure.

We're all for prosecuting sexual predators. But the standard of getting a warrant from a judge should remain.

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