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Missouri Police 'Wanteds' Alert System Ruled Constitutional

A Missouri system for police officers who want to interview a subject to issue a "wanted" alert for an arrest by any other officer in the state is constitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Tuesday. The "wanteds" system can be issued by officers without the approval of a magistrate judge, reports Courthouse News Service. Judges Bobby Shepherd and David Stras joined Judge Ralph Erickson's majority opinion, although they made other points. Dwayne Furlow and Ralph Torres filed suit in 2016 claiming the use of wanted notices violated their Fourth Amendment rights. They argued that that a warrant cannot be issued without probable cause, and probable cause must be assessed by "someone independent of the police and prosecution."

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the case, finding that issuing the notices adhered to the constitution, that the defendants had probable cause to issue a wanted alert for the plaintiffs, and that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. When the case was sent to the appeals court, they were unpersuaded that the system is unconstitutional. “The Wanteds System is broad enough to encompass situations that do not violate the Constitution, including those involving an arrest immediately after an officer has entered a wanted,” Erickson said. Stras brought up the tradition of wanted posters in the Wild West in the 19th century, "except now officers send out electronic messages and place information in a computer database." He does not believe this violates the Fourth Amendment.


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