Target: State legislature of Montana
Goal: Commend for requiring police to obtain search warrants before using private data
The state legislature of Montana recently passed a landmark bill that takes unprecedented steps to protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights. Having been signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock, the bill requires law enforcement to obtain probable-cause warrants before tracking suspects with cell phone location information, GPS devices, or the like. This is an important law because it extends the basic protection of the Fourth Amendment (protection from unlawful searches and seizures) to apply to technological innovations that have made finding people easier than the Founding Fathers could have imagined.
The Constitution protects citizens from unfair infringement upon their person or property by requiring that police show probable cause and acquire a warrant before conducting searches and seizures. The Montana law shields suspects (who have not been convicted of the crime in question) from having their privacy invaded and infringed upon, without the police first demonstrating probable cause before a judge.
Though Montana has drawn praise from civil liberty advocates for being the first in this vein, it is not the first state to try to pass a law to this effect. Over a dozen other states have already mulled over similar bills, with California and Maine being the most recent examples. In California, the law passed the state legislature but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who argued that it went too far in the direction of civil liberty and too far from security.
Since the progress of the law usually lags far behind the progress of technology, we should be thankful for Montana for taking the first step in this effort. Moreover, the successful passage of this important legislation in Montana may well be the inspiration needed for other states to do likewise. Please sign the petition below to praise Montana’s actions and stand in support of Fourth Amendment rights.
Dear state legislators of Montana:
Along with other civil liberty advocates, I would like to show my support for your recent passage of an important bill. This piece of legislation extends the basic protection afforded to citizens by the Fourth Amendment to location-based data and GPS devices. While other states have failed in their efforts to pass similar bills, yours has made the all-important first step, for which we all should be grateful.
With all that has recently come to light regarding the tactics of the NSA and other government agencies, efforts like yours are more important and relevant than ever before. Thank you for making the right decision, and taking a stand in favor of Americans’ constitutional rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: RyanDonahue via Flickr