Fri. Jun 5th, 2020

Utah Bans Police From Searching Digital Data Without Warrant

Utah just became the first state in the nation to ban warrantless searches of electronic data.


The new law, the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act (HB 57), stems from the fourth amendment, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


And, under the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act (HB 57), state law enforcement can only access someone’s transmitted or stored digital data (including writing, images, and audio) if a court issues a search warrant based on probable cause. Which means, search engines, email providers, social media, cloud storage, and any other third-party “electronic communications service” or “remote computing service” are fully protected under the Fourth Amendment


Additionally, HB 57 also includes provisions that promote government transparency and accountability. Therefore, once an agency executes a search warrant, they must notify the subject, within 14 days, that their data has been searched. Even more, HB 57 will prevent the government from using digital data that has been obtained illegally as evidence in court.


However, if there is an “immediate risk” of death, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, livestreamed sexual exploitation, kidnapping, or human trafficking, the act will allow law enforcement to obtain location-tracking information or subscriber data without a warrant.


HB 57 is set to take effect in mid-May.