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Bill Requiring Warrant to Track Mobile Devices Passes Mo. House 134-13

by Carl Wicklander, published

In Missouri, the state House of Representatives recently and overwhelmingly passed a bill that would compel law enforcement officials to get a warrant before tracking a person's electronic mobile device(s).

Two pages long, Missouri House Bill 1388 amends Chapter 542 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri pertaining to "Proceedings to Preserve the Peace - Searches and Seizures." The bill is sponsored by Republican Robert Cornejo of St. Peters, who said upon introducing his bill in January, "The data you're able to collect off a cell phone is pretty powerful . . . law enforcement officials can now access a pretty clear picture of your entire life," without having to prove probable cause.

One critic of Cornejo's bill is fellow Republican State Rep. Bill White of Jopline, who said:

"I appreciate what you're doing in terms of privacy, but I want to make sure we don't hamstring law enforcement in legitimate activities."

The amendment outlines the conditions in which one's electronic devices may be tracked: "A government entity shall not obtain the location information of an electronic device without a search warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction," unless:

1. The device is reported stolen by the owner; 2. To respond to the user's call for emergency services; 3. With the informed affirmative consent of the owner or user of the electronic device; or 4. A possible life-threatening situation exists

The bill goes on to say that any evidence obtained that violates the amendment will be inadmissible in "civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding."


Republican-led Missouri House of Representatives passed HB 1388 134-13, receiving strong support from both parties. The bill now moves to the Missouri Senate where Republicans also hold a majority, 24-9. If it passes, then it moves to the desk of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

Nixon has not indicated what he will do with the bill, which still faces the Senate, but the second-term governor already has the distinction of being the Missouri chief executive with the most veto overrides in nearly two hundred years. While Republicans tallied up ten veto overrides during a single session in 2013, the bigger issues of a GOP tax cut and the state's interposition on federal gun regulations fell short of an override.

In addition to requiring government agencies to get a search warrant before tracking an electronic device, Missouri has been at the forefront of the so-called state sovereignty movement. Other Missouri legislation designed to curb federal government power has included a variety of bills nullifying certain federal gun laws as well as same-sex marriage, which Missouri voters rejected in 2004.

Photo Credit: Alan Brandt / AP

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