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Police Will Need Warrant To Access Cell Phone
Updated June 18, 2014 10:02 AM
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(UNDATED) - Police will soon have to get a warrant when attempting to access an individual's cell phone or when obtaining information using a drone.

House Bills 1009 and 1394 -- which take effect July 1 -- are meant to protect Hoosier privacy and establish limits on what law enforcement officials can and cannot do with technology.

"If the police could observe everything, undoubtedly we would be able to stop a lot of violence," said Fred Cate, the director for applied cyber security research and an IU law professor. "But as a society we just said that we don't want the police doing general searches, we want you to only search when you have probable cause or you have a reason to conduct a search."

"That societal decision has consequences for the police and undoubtedly makes them less effective, but it makes all of us feel like we have a little more privacy," he said.

HB 1384 requires police to obtain a search warrant in order to use drones or to put a tracking device or a camera in someone's car or on their property - with a few exceptions that include situations involving terrorism and hostages.

Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said Indiana is one of only three states to have acted comprehensively on the issue. He said legislators worked closely with law enforcement to create the new law.

"We took a very collaborative approach with law enforcement," Koch said. "I felt it was important to learn what they're doing now and what they're doing in different situations so we didn't have any unintended consequences."

Dave Bursten, spokesman for the Indiana State Police, said laws limiting what police can do without obtaining a search warrant should not hamper the police's ability to do their jobs.
"Part of living in a free society is to work within the framework of laws to protect citizens while legally investigating suspected criminal acts," Bursten said.

Koch also worked with Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, to ensure that the bill would be bipartisan.

"This issue shouldn't be partisan. We have to work together," Koch said.

The new law adds language protecting journalists and their sources. It also calls for a summer study committee to consider additional privacy issues.

HB 1009 requires police officers to go through standard procedures to access information after a routine traffic stop.

Under the change, police must have probable cause or the consent of the individual to search a phone. If there is no probable cause or consent, the officer must obtain a search warrant.

Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, who said similar bills had been filed in the last two or three sessions and failed. He said he hopes police believe "these are reasonable safeguards, given the advancement of technology."

"As technology advances and these smart phones come packed with all this personal information, there is a shift of power into law enforcement or into government away from our own privacy and our own ability to own and control our private information," Speedy said. "This was a bill that simply brought the concepts contained in the constitution up to the most modern of times with respect to smart phones."

Cate said that the law has to continue growing as technology grows.

"As technology evolves, more of our data is being held in devices or in systems that it's easy for the police to get access to and the police, understandably, doing there jobs, their going to use every means of access they legally can," Cate said. "If there are going to be limits, they are going to be limits that are imposed by state legislators."
Speedy believes that the General Assembly will continue to see legislation involving the use of technology in the future.

"I would fully expect that this be a routine issue, that every session or every year there will be a discussion about new technology," Speedy said. "How can we help law enforcement do its job without handing over the privacy of all law-abiding citizens? I expect it to be an ongoing, continual conversation."

Bursten said it's a balancing act.

"Technology is a double-edged sword that can be used to the benefit of society as well as to victimize members of society," Bursten said. "It is safe to expect that as technology evolves, so will the associated laws."

Alec Gray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.



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