Legislation sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) which prohibits law enforcement officers from searching or seizing a person’s cellular telephone data without first obtaining a warrant took effect on July 1.
The new law, Public Chapter 785, prohibits the search and seizure of a cellular phone during a routine traffic stop, and states that no cellular telephone data that is obtained in violation of the legislation is admissible as evidence in any court of law.
Supporters of Tennessee’s new law were further bolstered by this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding cellular phone privacy. In Riley v. California, Chief Justice John Roberts authored a unanimous decision stating that the Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a search warrant prior to the search of a cellular phone - using arguments similar to those put forth by Beavers this past legislative session.
“Searching or seizing a person’s cellphone or smartphone data without any judicial oversight is a major invasion of the privacy of our citizens,” said Beavers. “I am thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court further emphasized the importance of protecting against increased government encroachment into our everyday lives. As Justice Roberts stated, a search of someone’s phone can be more intrusive than a search of their home. Therefore, we must continue to be vigilant to ensure that our constitutional freedoms are protected, even in light of the technological advances in our society.”
In his concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito also acknowledged the roles of state legislatures in debating privacy laws, stating that “Legislatures, elected by the people, are in a better position than we are to assess and respond to the changes that have already occurred and those that almost certainly will take place in the future.”