Following on from February’s ruling by Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court that law enforcement needs a warrant to obtain cellphone location information, New Hampshire is now strengthening its laws relating to cellphone searches.
A short and simple bill introduced by Reps. Kurk, Sandblade and O’Flaherty, all of Hillsborough County, NH, provides that a warrant, “signed by a judge and based on probable cause,” is required for “information contained in a portable electronic device”. It’s not clear to me whether that would include cellphone location information or not, because that could be interpreted to not be “contained in” the phone. The House version includes misdemeanor penalties for a “government entity” which violates the act, as well as civil liability. The Senate version keeps civil liability, allowing a person to sue for damages, while removing the criminal penalties. This difference is what will be worked out in a joint committee in the coming week, before it heads to the Governor’s desk.
This is great news for the Fourth Amendment, and it’s good evidence that we can get meaningfully greater protections for our personal data by working through state legislatures.
UPDATE: A warrant is required only for phones that are password-protected. If you live in NH, or are visiting for the weekend, add that password!