Brandes’ legislation smartly addresses search and seizure in our technologically advanced world

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Police would need a warrant to seize information off any portable electronic device, such as a cell phone, under a bill (SB 846) sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes that’s before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The Senate’s staff analysis of the measure notes that the bill would create new law in the area of search and seizure, which has changed slowly despite rapid changes in personal communications technology.

Brandes’ bill is one of the smartest, most-needed pieces of legislation proposed this session. It’s chances of passage, however, in this tough-on-crime Legislature are unclear.

But a recent document from an immigration case detailing the information that police pulled from an iPhone is a perfect example of why this bill should pass. Intrusive cell phone searches are becoming ever easier for law enforcement officers to conduct and allow the police to gather too much private information about a person’s communications, historical movements, and private life during an arrest.

Chris Soghoian writes that this was not an issue b

efore the age of smartphones. … Our pockets and bags simply weren’t big enough to carry paper records revealing that much data. … The fact that we now carry this much private, sensitive information around with us means that the government is able to get this information, too.

The type of data stored on a smartphone can paint a near-complete picture of even the most private details of someone’s personal life. Call history, voicemails, text messages and photographs can provide a catalogue of how—and with whom—a person spends his or her time, exposing everything from intimate photographs to 2 a.m. text messages.

Web browsing history may include Google searches for Alcoholics Anonymous or local gay bars. Apps can expose what you’re reading and listening to. Location information might uncover a visit to an abortion clinic, a political protest, or a psychiatrist.

The spirit of the Constitution holds that the police should not be free to copy the contents of your phone without a warrant absent extraordinary circumstances. 

Modern society just needs modern legislation which reflects the technology used in our daily lives.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.