DENVER - Police would be allowed to legally obtain location data from cell phone providers without a warrant under a bipartisan proposal up for debate late in the Colorado legislative session.
HB 1308 would allow that option to police if they establish probable cause that there is a "risk of death of death or bodily injury" to a person.
The bill would allow police to order records from a mobile phone belonging to the person in danger, or somebody else with that person.
Police would also need to establish probable cause that the risk of harm would increase due to the time required to obtain a warrant before seeking the records.
The idea comes from Colorado's neighbors to the East in Kansas, where 18-year-old Kelsey Smith was kidnapped in 2007.
It took Verizon Wireless four days to turn over her cell phone records to the police, which led them to her body. She'd been raped and murdered.
Now her family is advocating for easier access to cell phone data in emergency situations. Her father plans to testify at Tuesday's hearing of HB 1308 in Colorado. There is a version of the Kelsey Smith Act in Congress as well.
"There is quite a good chance that had this legislation been in force at the time that Kelsey Smith was abducted... she might be alive today." said Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Cherry Hills Village.)
Kagan is sponsoring HB 1308 along with Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) along with the Denver Police Department.
"In these types of cases a minute, five minutes, an hour could mean the difference in life or death or serious bodily injury," said Det. John White.
White points out that the bill would require police to obtain court approval of their search within 24 hours in order to keep the information given to them by cell phone providers.
"It allows law enforcement to cut corners at the very beginning," says Denise Maes with ACLU Colorado.
Maes sees the proposal as chipping away at the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
"Why not let law enforcement simply tap your telephone? Monitor what you watch on television? Monitor your whereabouts? Your comings and goings? That's a slippery slope," said Maes.
The debate promises to re-examine the balance of privacy and public safety in Colorado when it comes to mobile technology.
The bill is set for a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
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