A bill that would allow law enforcement to trace cellphones without a court order in certain situations passed a committee in the state legislature Tuesday.
House Bill 1308, co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, was introduced and passed by the House Judiciary Committee. It proposes that phone traces be conducted without a court order as long as authorities prove the situation is an emergency or life-threatening.
Under the bill, law enforcement could not share the location information with another agency, and would have 48 hours to destroy it or ask a judge to retain it.
To read the first version of the bill, visit http://bit.ly/11zfxWJ.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said the bill intends to formalize a court decision last year that already allowed law enforcement to conduct such searches. He said his office requests a search no more than six times a year.
"Before that, we could seize phone records without a search warrant in those situations," said Maketa. "But part of the court decision was that we have to get warrants now."
Maketa tried to reassure the public that law enforcement wouldn't abuse the authority provided by the bill, and not expand a location search to include emails and text messages.
However, Loring Wirbel of the Pikes Peak American Civil Liberties Union said he's skeptical of the bill and how it could be used.
"(Law enforcement) might claim an emergency lasts weeks or months," he said. "If we're going to protect our civil liberties, we can't just give police agencies everything they want. Our democracy depends on challenging laws that go too far, and I think this is one that goes too far."
Wirbel said a similar law already exists at the federal level, and the ACLU opposes the state bill unless it clearly defines the nature of an emergency and includes strict limits on where and when it can be used.
The bill advances to the House floor for further consideration.
To read the first version of the bill, visit: http://bit.ly/11zfxWJ.