The Austin Statesman published an editorial yesterday on two proposed bills in Texas that would limit law enforcement’s ability to search cell phones by establishing a probable cause standard:
Republican state Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola and Democratic state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen are the primary authors of the proposed legislation, which addresses an issue that has divided the courts. A hearing on Hughes’ House bill was held last month. The bill was left pending in committee. A public hearing on Hinojosa’s Senate bill is scheduled for Wednesday.
Arguing that such legislation is needed, they write:
The proposed legislation grants exceptions — for life-threatening situations, for example — and places no impediment on criminal investigations. Warrants will still be issued, and issued quickly.
The Constitution protects suspects by placing burdens on law enforcement, the courts and the government, whose powers are far greater than the individual’s. The proposed legislation restores some balance to the individual’s rights against the interests of the state.
You can read the full editorial here.
Responding to the editorial, Grits for Breakfast writes:
One clarification: The editorial says police now access this information under a “reasonable suspicion” standard but the situation is not nearly so clear. By my count, various law-enforcement sources have cited four different standards presently used to access this data – a function of vagueness and confusion created by state and federal laws. Let’s quickly run through them.
Read his commentary here.