Fourth Amendment

Reasonable! Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Pass Amendment Extending 4A Protections to Electronic Devices, Data



As noted at Reason 24/7 this morning, Justin Amash's hard-fought victory in Michigan's third district wasn't the only bit of good news for critics of the surveillance state. In Missouri an amendment to the state constitution, supported by State Sen. Rob Schaaf, (R-St. Joseph), that extends protection from unreasonable search and seizure to electronic communications and data passed overwhelmingly. In other words, cops, and other interested government busybodies, will need a warrant for that kind of information. The Kansas City Star came out against the amendment, and another reaffirming the right to bear arms, arguing it was "vaguely worded" and that the right place to secure the right to privacy was in litigation.

Though the amendment was proposed before the Supreme Court's ruling, the June Riley vs. California decision extended nationwide the same kind of protection from unreasonable search and seizure to people's cellphones. Over the last few years, states such as Texas, California, Maine, and Tennessee have moved toward extending Fourth Amendment protections to the digital realm.

A guide (PDF) for school officials from the Missouri Attorney General's office on conducting reasonable searches and serious doesn't mention cellphones or electronic devices once, though is heavy on when a search might be "reasonable." The efforts in Missouri, and around the country, certainly push back on the idea that reasonable people shouldn't reasonably expect privacy just because they use modern technology.

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  1. Though the amendment was proposed before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the June Riley vs. California decision extended nationwide the same kind of protection from unreasonable search and seizure to people’s cellphones.

    Relying on judge made law is always shakier than direct constitutional protection in an amendment. Good for Missouri!

  2. shorter Kansas City Star: horrible freedom!

  3. the right place to secure the right to privacy was in litigation

    Right. You cannot have those pesky citizens saying what their rights will be. That could lead to things like a Constitution.

    1. Constitutions are for old white male extremists.

  4. The Kansas City Star came out against the amendment, and another reaffirming the right to bear arms, arguing it was “vaguely worded”

    Oh so now ambiguity is a bad thing ??

  5. They could have just borrowed PAs 4th amendment rights, I hear they don’t use them anymore and they’re just sitting on some dusty old shelf.

    1. ?? PA aligned itself with federal jurisprudence. I.e., it decided not to extend the recognition of rights beyond 4A. Odd.

  6. I support this “overhwelmingly.”

    Too bad Reason turned me down for that remote proofreading gig a few months back.

    1. Meeeoooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww!

    2. Don’t worry, most people here are libertarians, and libertarians can’t read that well anyway, because they aren’t really smart like liberals. A type-o like that would never happen on a liberal blog where everyone would be a genius.

    3. Ah, so my comment got noticed. Just doing my part to make H+R even better.

  7. New Hampshire also confirmed these rights recently through the judicial process.…..e-practice

  8. Question for the lawyers here…

    Shouldn’t the “effects” part of 4A include cell phones anyway? Doesn’t it pertain to things like cars anyway?

    1. Yep.

      But, c’mon, that dusty old document, full of archaic terms that no one understands? Its a Living Constitution, with no need to be tethered to the actual meaning of the actual words on the actual page.

      Best we just let the police and their allies on the bench tell us what our rights are.

    2. Yes, it should. But do you want to leave that to the toadies on the federal bench?

  9. The solution to all this snooping, peeking and general ignoring of the 4th Amendment (and its state analogs) is very simple: delete the word “unreasonable”. We have never been able to rely on the police or local prosecutors to make a fair judgment of what is “reasonable”; they’ve been abusing that word for decades (if not centuries). But now it is clear that the courts can’t make that judgment, either; they are willing after-the-fact enablers of governmental abuses. The discretion permitted by the word “reasonable” has been grossly abused and should simply be eliminated. You want to search a car or download the contents of a phone? Go to court and get a warrant. Period.

  10. Good for Missouri. As far as the alt-text for the Dragnet illustration, I think I would have preferred, “What kind of kick are you on, son?” It may not be particularly relevant to this story, but it’s one of my all time favorites.

  11. “Section 23. That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

    They struck the part in current law that said: “but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.” Also, they recently tried to pass a bill that would make it a prosecutable offense for federal agents to try to enforce any federal gun law within the state, although this is apparently unconstitutional, but kudos for trying.

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