from the post-Snowden-lawmaking dept
A ballot measure introduced by a bipartisan group of Michigan legislators is sure to encounter some heavy resistance on its trip through the lawmaking machinery. The proposal amends the state's constitution to add a warrant requirement to data that law enforcement is used to obtaining without one.
House Joint Resolution C (HJRC) was introduced by Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) along with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. If approved, voters would have the opportunity to alter Article 1, Section 11 of the Michigan state constitution in the following manner:
The person, houses, papers,
andpossessions, and electronic data and communications of every person shall be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. No warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things or to access electronic data or communications shall issue without describing them, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. The provisions of this section shall not be construed to bar from evidence in any criminal proceeding any narcotic drug, firearm, bomb, explosive or any other dangerous weapon, seized by a peace officer outside the curtilage of any dwelling house in this state.
The phrase "electronic data" covers a lot of things normally considered to be "third-party records" and currently given little to no protection under the Fourth Amendment. This amendment would establish an expectation of privacy in electronic communications and data -- at least under the state's constitution.
If passed, courts will have to consider the implications of the state's more stringent privacy protections when dealing with the admissibility of electronic data/communications. This means state law enforcement partnerships with federal agencies could result in unprosecutable charges if any evidence is derived from the warrantless acquisition of protected data and communications. In practical terms, this may not change much, as the feds will just bring the case to federal court in order to (hopefully) bypass the state's more restrictive constitution.
But, as the Tenth Amendment Center points out, if the new law passes, it will discourage local law enforcement from helping themselves to data harvested by federal surveillance programs.
Because the federal government relies heavily on partnerships and information sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies, passage the amendment could potentially hinder federal surveillance programs that depend on state cooperation and information gathering.
State and local law enforcement agencies regularly provide surveillance data to the federal government through ISE and Fusion Centers. They collect and store information from cell-site simulators (AKA “stingrays”), automated license plate readers (ALPRs), drones, facial recognition systems, and even “smart” or “advanced” power meters in homes. Requiring warrants to gather such data would undoubtedly limit the amount of information collected by state and local law enforcement. Information that doesn’t exist cannot be shared with the feds.
If "electronic data" is defined in such a way to include data gathered en masse by electronics, this would institute a warrant requirement for ALPR deployment and would make pen register orders demanding historical cell site data a thing of the past.
The constitutional amendment has a long way to go before it's ratified. Hopefully, it will make its way through the process mostly intact.