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New Law Requires Law Enforcement To Obtain Search Warrants to Collect Info from Cell Phones

| October 9, 2013

A new State law goes into effect beginning Wednesday October 9th in Maine.  Law enforcement officials now have to get a search warrant to collect information from someone’s cell phone.

In order to collect emails, voice-mail, text messages or location data from someone’s cell phone, an officer must first obtain a search warrant.

Caribou Police Officer Kevin St. Peter says, “we now have to file an affidavit to a judge and have that reviewed and signed, it’s a more in depth and lengthy process.”

The law states that officers will have to show probable cause that the information they’re looking for is relevant to a criminal case, unless they can prove that waiting to get the warrant will put someone’s life or safety in danger.

St. Peter says,  “if we’re attempting to find a missing person to either track their cell phone call logs, somebody that’s in danger that may harm them self.

The new laws faced opposition from the States attorney general Janet Mills and State Police. They argue the law is unnecessary and could hamper criminal investigations. The Democratic controlled Legislature approved the new law last session, and say it’s necessary because related federal law is out of date, and leaves residents vulnerable as technology advances.

St. Peter adds, “With technology today, our cases are more involved and the courts are I guess requesting more if in the past years ago if someone said so and so called me we’ll take their word for it, now with technology we’re getting call logs and text messages.”

The new law has 2 bills, one is the requirement for an officer to obtain a search warrant.  The other is the requirement for an officer to notify someone within three days if their information has been collected, unless an officer can justify that doing so would jeopardize an investigation.  In that case a court would waive the requirement to get a search warrant.

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