New Jersey court eases rules for access to phone records

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has made it easier for law enforcement to obtain phone records in criminal investigations.

A split court ruled Monday that police can get a court order if they convince a judge the records are relevant to an investigation.

A defendant in a 2014 drug case in Monmouth County had argued established case law requires police to get a search warrant, which uses the higher standard of probable cause.

Writing for a four-judge majority, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said telephone records are similar to bank records, which only require a grand jury subpoena.

In a dissent joined by one other justice, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote the decision creates a lower threshold that sweeps aside the governing standard in use for the last three decades.

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