Indiana nears protections from warrantless searches

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Indiana state lawmakers are taking steps to improve privacy protections for people by restricting police collection of cellphone data.

A bill sent to Gov. Mike Pence would prohibit police from searching cellphones during routine traffic stops without a search warrant.

Senate lawmakers unanimously approved HB1384 following a House vote of 87-3.

If signed into law, police would be required to get a warrant when there isn’t probable cause to believe a person’s phone contains evidence of a crime, such as illegally texting while driving.

“The bill would compel law enforcement to seek a judge’s permission before downloading information from a cellphone, personal computer, tablet or other things of this nature,” Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, said while speaking about the bill on the Senate floor.

“Certainly in the last year we’ve seen a lot of information – the NSA and Eric Snowden, Wikileaks – where our personal freedoms should be protected, and certainly our electronic communication should be protected as well.”

Another bill headed to the governor’s desk would also prohibit warrantless searches of electronic communication or user data. Specifically, it would require obtaining a specific search warrant showing belief that a crime occurred.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill. House lawmakers previously approved HB1009 on an 85-11 vote.

The bill covers the use of “Stingray” technology by law enforcement, including the Indiana State Police. The equipment allows the federal government, local and state police departments to track the movements of anyone nearby with a cellphone. The numbers of people’s incoming and outgoing calls and text messages are also captured.

Limits would also be put in place on the use of tracking devices, surveillance cameras and drones.

Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said his bill balances privacy and security in the Digital Age.

“Today, smartphones have replaced diaries, computers have replaced file drawers, drones can replace stakeouts, cellphones are replacing landlines,” Koch said in a news release. “Almost any form of data can be secretly captured, quickly stored and easily searched and cross-referenced ... literally forever.”

The bill also calls for further study on the issue in an interim committee.

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