Legislation aims to protect your cell phone records
A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a new bill (A-4108) that would require law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant before they can access personal information from anyone's cell phone.
The goal of Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) is to remind citizens that they have a fundamental right protecting them against unlawful search and seizure.
"A 1982 State Supreme Court ruling stated that there are significant dangers to personal liberty to allow personal information to be gotten without a search warrant," Dancer said. "Giving government what essentially could be carte blanche to look at a person's personal cell phone data records I believe that's not only unconstitutional, but a dangerous precedent."
The state recently tried to obtain cell phone records from people who had been in contact with an Asbury Park man who was charged with distributing cocaine. Lawyers for the state argued they should be allowed bypass the warrant process and get a grand jury subpoena instead because that is much faster. A judge ruled against the state Thursday, but an appeal is expected.
"Requiring a warrant for cell phone billing records is very important because the type of information that we're talking about besides your name and address, it includes who you call, who you speak to, the date of the call and the source of payment including your credit card and bank account number," Dancer said.
The legislation would not hinder police investigations, Dancer said, because current law already allows law enforcement to have carriers maintain cell phone records unaltered for up to 180 days while a search warrant is pursued.
The "New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act" would be updated under Dancer's legislation. The act would be revised to require police to obtain a search warrant before they can have access to anyone's telecommunications personal information.