Michigan House OKs electronic personal privacy plan

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The state House approved Thursday a plan to require law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant before accessing any form of personal electronic data or communications under a proposed amendment to the Michigan constitution.

The proposal, approved in a 107-1 vote and now headed to the Senate, would expand Article I Section 2 of the state constitution which protects residents from unreasonable searches and seizures by their government.

“Constitutionally enshrined rights should not be eroded just because the march of progress makes them easier to infringe,” said sponsoring Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake. “House Resolution N is a necessary measure to prevent such erosion in the face of advances in information and telecommunications technology.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, which would require voter approval, could still make the November ballot if it also wins 2/3 majority support in the state Senate.

The U.S. Constitution also includes protections against searches and seizures. The Supreme Court, in a 2014 case out of California, held that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search the contents of a cellphone during an arrest.

Runestad noted Missouri legislators put an electronic data protection proposal on that state’s 2014 ballot, and the constitutional amendment was approved by nearly 75 percent of voters.

Michigan State Police and the Michigan Sheriff’s Association both indicated opposition to the potential Michigan proposal last year in committee.

Also Thursday, the state House approved separate legislation that would allow individuals seeking personal protection orders to transfer an existing cell phone number from the subject of that order.

Supporters say the measure, also headed to the Senate for further consideration, would benefit victims of domestic violence who may be locked into a cell phone contract with their alleged abuser.


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