Senate OKs measure requiring warrant before tracking cellphones

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2014 - 11:26 PM

Minnesota state Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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A measure requiring police to get a warrant before using devices to track cellphones overwhelmingly passed the Minnesota Senate 56-1 on Tuesday.

Sen. Branden Petersen’s bill was in response to concern about “cellular exploitation devices” marketed under names like the Kingfish and Stingray, which capture data and location information of cellular phones in a given area. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has one, as does the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

The original bill by Petersen, R-Andover, required that a search warrant be approved to use the devices and that people tracked by the devices be notified afterward by law enforcement. The devices are currently used with authorization by court order, which is less stringent than a search warrant.

However, a floor amendment modified the bill to require “tracking warrants” rather than search warrants. While both require a statement of probable cause and signoff by a judge, a tracking warrant is less specific in its requirements than a search warrant.

Petersen said the provision was a last-minute compromise and is what resulted in the near-unanimous vote. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, was the lone dissenter.

Companion legislation in the House companion awaits debate on the floor.

Abby Simons

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