New Indiana laws provide protections from warrantless searches

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, June 19, 2014

In less than two weeks new laws in Indiana will take effect to improve privacy protections for people by restricting police collection of cellphone data.

Starting July 1, one new law prohibits police from searching cellphones during routine traffic stops without a search warrant.

The rule change requires police 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.

Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, said the new law will compel law enforcement to seek a judge’s permission before downloading information from a cellphone, personal computer or tablet.

“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,” Waltz said recent discussion at the statehouse.

Another new law effective July 1 prohibits warrantless searches of electronic communication or user data. Specifically, a search warrant will be required showing belief that a crime occurred.

The new law 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 will also be put in place on the use of tracking devices, surveillance cameras and drones.

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

“Almost any form of data can be secretly captured, quickly stored and easily searched and cross-referenced ... literally forever,” Koch said in a news release. “(The new law) will work to reduce issues that inevitably emerge from these technological advances.”

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