A House proposal that would change the way law enforcement officers get their hands on data from a person’s cellphone was pushed on Tuesday to its last committee assignment.
Republican state Rep. Jamie Grant said his bill (HB 1249) would require police to “reflect constitutional due process” when they search a person’s phone-location records as well as data from microphone-enabled household devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
“At the founding of our country the Fourth Amendment is the most important protection and technology has made it more challenging,” said Republican state Rep. Cord Byrd, who chairs the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee where the bill was last heard.
With no questions or debate, and the Public Defenders Association and Florida Smart Justice Alliance waiving in support, the measure passed unanimously. Now it heads to the Judiciary Committee, where Grant said there will be an opportunity to further discuss tweaks in policy to the bill.
Under the House bill, law enforcement officers would need probable cause and a court-issued warrant to search a person’s cellular device. Officers would need to install a mobile-tracking device within 10 days of obtaining the warrant and would only have access to the location data for 45 days, unless the court grants an extension for the search.
The measure also would widen the scope of activity in which a person can be charged for accessing another person’s phone without permission. Under the bill, reading emails or emails on another person’s phone or laptop without permission would be a crime.
If someone accesses a phone’s data without permission for the purpose of destroying the data or commercial gain, it could be punishable by up to a year in county jail.
House staff analysis said the state prison population would “insignificantly” increase.
The companion bill (SB 1256) in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, has also been moving along in the upper chamber. Both measures differ in that Brandes’ bill would offer protections to businesses that access information from an electronic device if the data “prevents identification of the user of the device.”
Brandes’ bill is up for consideration Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.