Maine lawmakers override veto to pass cell phone warrant requirement

[JURIST] The Maine Legislature [official website] on Wednesday voted 127-17 in favor of a new law requiring police to obtain a warrant to track a cell phone, overriding a veto by Governor Paul LePage [official website]. The bill [LD 415 text] was one of four privacy laws up for vote in the final hours of the legislative period. LD 1377 and LD 1040 [text], laws requiring warrants in order to obtain the contents of a text message and to place surveillance equipment on private property, respectively, were also signed into law when the governor did not veto them during the statutory period of time. LD 236 [text], however, an act to protect private citizens from drone surveillance, did not rally enough votes to override the governor's veto. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maine welcomed results [press release]: "As technologies advance, it's important that the law keeps up. With these warrant requirements in place, privacy protections in Maine are among the strongest in the nation."

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] last year in United States v. Jones [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that the government's attachment of a global positioning system (GPS) [JURIST news archive] device to a vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constitutes a search [JURIST report] under the Fourth Amendment [text]. The federal government sought Supreme Court review after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled [JURIST reports] in 2010 that prolonged use of GPS to monitor suspects' vehicles violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Also last year the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that police did not violate the Fourth Amendment [JURIST report] when they tracked a suspect's cell phone using the phone's GPS signal.

 

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