Back for a third time was an ACLU-drafted bill requiring law enforcement obtain a warrant prior to conducting a search of any cell phone. As cell phone technology has advanced, the devices we carry on a daily basis have begun to carry substantial amounts of information, including e-mails, photos, and records of where we have traveled. Cell phones are harmless once confiscated, and yet the immense information contained within a phone remains unprotected by any warrant requirement. A case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court may soon rule on the constitutionality of searching an individual’s cell phone without a warrant, but approval of this legislation would have protected Rhode Islanders regardless of any action by the courts. Similar legislation was passed by the General Assembly in 2012 but was unexpectedly vetoed by Governor Chafee. The ACLU testified before the House Judiciary committee in support of this legislation in March, and the Senate Judiciary committee in May, but neither committee voted on the legislation by the end of the session.
Cell Phone Warrants (H 7189, S 2657)
Representative Edie Ajello and Senator Donna Nesselbush