What Will Be on the Ballot?
In the upcoming November elections, voters will have the chance to decide if police should be allowed to access people’s electronic data and communications. This is an update to the Michigan Constitution which would make a constitutional amendment barring police from the search and seizure of private electronic information without a valid warrant. It is important to note that this change would be to the Michigan Constitution and not the United States Constitution. Other states have passed similar legislation overwhelmingly. The state of New Hampshire passed a similar measure in 2018 with over 80% in favor. Missouri did it four years earlier with 75% support. If passed, this would apply to Michigan law enforcement agencies only, not federal authorities. It would also bar Michigan law enforcement from working on behalf of federal authorities in trying to gain access to electronic data without a warrant. Generally, police agencies seek warrants or have other legal justification for executing searches, but this new amendment would make the requirements official.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution disallows the unreasonable search and seizure of a person, house, papers or effects without probable cause and a valid, sworn warrant. The power of the fourth amendment varies, where sometimes the remedy for a Fourth Amendment violation is to exclude the illegally obtained evidence, and sometimes the evidence stays in despite an officer obtaining the evidence improperly in some way. Fourth Amendment violations are a lot more common than people care to admit as police agencies have grown stronger and less accountable. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that federal police agencies needed a warrant to access a person’s location based on cell phone data. Federal authorities used cell phone information for a period of 127 days in determining his location history in this Detroit case. It is clear that the Fourth Amendment at the federal level is being protected in this manner, so it is only natural that states will follow suit.
If you believe police have searched you in violation of the Fourth Amendment, then it is important to speak to an experience criminal defense attorney immediately. You may have a basis for a motion to suppress which would give a judge the opportunity to exclude any illegally obtained evidence from your case. Most times, if the evidence is excluded, then a dismissal of the case usually follows.
How Does This Affect Me?
This vote affects everyone. It will make clear that the strength of the Fourth Amendment in Michigan is just the same as it is on a federal level. Even if somehow the measure does not pass, this does not mean that police now have access to your electronics. A state law can give you more rights than a federal law, but not less. So, if police are violating your federal constitutional rights, you still have the ability to make those claims. Truly, this just makes it more official and is symbolic of sorts. This vote will discourage police departments from trying to run closer to that edge when doing their investigations. As we continue forward and technology continues to improve, it is necessary to continue to update our laws and how they are interpreted.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.