Friday, January 22, 2016

Proposed law could allow warrantless phone searches

On a cold, sunny Thursday afternoon, Deputy Jean Miguel Bariteau of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department spots the driver of a red hatchback using his cell phone. When Bariteau pulls him over, it's a straightforward call to write a ticket. He saw the driver use his phone, and the young man behind the wheel admits it.
If the man behind the wheel had denied violating Vermont's distracted driver law, checking the phone records would have helped the deputy make his case. But a search like that requires a warrant.
Lawmakers want to make it easier for officers like Bariteau to enforce Vermont’s 2014 ban on using hand-held devices while on highways. They’re asking Vermonters to give up some of their privacy in exchange for safer roads. But even the chief sponsor of the bill said he hasn’t “really thought about” what, exactly, would be fair game for a warrantless search under his bill.
H.527, introduced by Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, would allow law enforcement officers to see a driver's phone or other electronic device, to see if it was being used. LaLonde said he doesn’t intend for police to be able to take a person’s phone back to his squad car and rummage through it.
“Essentially, it’s ‘show me your text log,’” he said.
But opponents say the proposal goes too far, and even LaLonde said he isn’t sure if the bill can “thread the needle” between giving law enforcement better tools and protecting privacy.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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