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Attorneys from the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said without court oversight the public has no assurance the power won’t be abused.
The statute allows prosecutors to access names, addresses, phone connections, session times and duration and bank-account information, if they’re deemed relevant to the case.
"I understand the reasoning behind it. But if this were given to a judge there would be at least some transparency, and right now there isn’t much at all," said Kent Hart, executive director of the association.
Saving a life » Farnsworth told the other side of the story, recounting how her task force used the law to find a Utah girl who was kidnapped and taken to California.
If investigators had had to wait for a judge’s approval, she said, it might have been too late.
"She was literally about an hour away from being taken down into Mexico and seeing the end," Farnsworth said.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, asked whether cases are common where waiting for a warrant could cost a life, prompting Barlow to acknowledge it’s a "fairly small percentage."
Barlow was then asked whether the warrantless subpoenas should be limited to cases where someone’s life is at stake. "Because the statute doesn’t say that it is," he said, "I guess that’s your responsibility."
Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, said the committee decided to look into the administrative subpoena law to see how it has worked, not necessarily to change the law.
"Let’s bring in the players to look at it, hear what they have to say and we’ll determine if we would need to react in some way," McIff said.
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