St. Charles County proposing no cell phone tracking without a warrant

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 5:00 PM

(KMOV.com) — Cell phones can be a powerful tool for police to use when they want to find out exactly where you are.

However, Missouri lawmakers are looking to ban the use of cellphone tracking technology unless police get a warrant.

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments has ordered cell phone tracking equipment which should arrive by summer of 2014

St. Louis police will own and operate the gear which will be available to departments all around the metro area.

When it comes to restricting use, St. Charles County is ahead of the state as far as requiring a warrant.

“This has been a big issue not only locally, in the state, but in the nation,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann. He says the equipment can be used to find a missing person, a stolen cell phone or someone in danger, but the county is considering a bill that would put restrictions on its use.

“This is not to be used except with a warrant or in a life-threatening situation,” Ehlmann said. 

The St. Charles County ordinance is almost an exact image of the bill lawmakers are trying to hammer out in Jefferson City. 

Ehlmann says the reason the county moved ahead was the state may or may not pass the legislation and this way the law is clear in St. Charles County.

If an officer uses the tracking equipment in violation of the bill any information would be thrown out of court.

Police tracking cell phones without a warrant has been a major concern for privacy advocates.

Police departments continue to grapple with policies covering officers outfitted with body cameras and drones being used for video surveillance.

At times, the laws have a difficult time keeping up with the technology.

“It’s a pretty significant task as everything moves faster,” said Lieutenant Chris Digiuseppi from the Lake St. Louis Police Department. “Technology increases and as technology increases so do the capabilities of those committing crimes.”

The House bill passed overwhelmingly and now moves to the Senate, but if it does go through and is signed by the governor, it wouldn’t take effect until late August.

St. Charles County is expected to take a final vote on its bill next week.

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