Press Release – The state of New Jersey says it should be able to view a person’s cell phone billing records without a warrant. Assemblyman Ron Dancer says not so fast – “New Jersey citizens have a fundamental privacy right against unlawful search and seizure. Justice prevails when the scales are balanced between one’s constitutional right and government’s need to know.”
As a result, the lawmaker has introduced legislation that requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant before accessing a telecommunications subscriber’s personal information.
Recently, without a warrant, the state attempted to obtain the call-detail records of people who had contact with an Asbury Park Press man who was arrested on cocaine distribution charges. The state argued it should be permitted to bypass the warrant process and instead obtain a grand jury subpoena which is more expedient. A Monmouth County Superior Court judge on Thursday ruled that a warrant is required to access cell phone records. It’s likely the case will go before the state Supreme Court.
“Certainly we should arm law enforcement with every appropriate tool for pursuing alleged criminals, while safeguarding the constitutional privacy rights of our citizens,” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Monmouth, Burlington and Middlesex. “It is important to note that, under current law, law enforcement agencies can have communication service providers preserve all records for up to six months with a simple request, until a search warrant is issued.”
The bill revises the “New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act” by requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant, rather than a grand jury or trial subpoena, prior to accessing a person’s telecommunications personal information.
“This legislation places into state law a 1982 State Supreme Court decision (State v. Hunt) that individuals have privacy interests in their telephone billing records,” said Dancer.