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State Assembly passes cellphone tracking bill

Police would be required to get a warrant before tracking cellphone locations

State Assembly passes cell phone tracking bill

VERNON COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) - Wisconsin lawmakers are on the verge of forcing law enforcement to get a warrant before tracking any cellphone locations.

The bill cleared the Assembly Thursday afternoon and now moves to the state Senate.

Vernon County Sheriff John Spears isn't opposed to first justifying why they need to track somebody by getting a warrant.  He said everyone has the right to privacy, but in this day and age it can be tricky.

"Cellphones nowadays are not just a telephone. Everybody knows that they are video cameras, thy're GPS units…they're everything," said Spears.

Spears said they can be extremely valuable in certain situations.

"Cellphones have been used for tracking and finding individuals who are in danger whether it's a child abduction, human trafficking, all of those issues where those cellphones are critical in locating someone," said Spears.

However, Spears said he is on board with Assembly Bill 536.

"What the bill is prohibiting is the police or law enforcement tracking a cellphone from somebody they have no probable cause to believe did anything wrong and under no emergency circumstance," said Todd Schroeder with Devanie, Belzer and Schroeder in La Crosse.

Schroeder said the bill shouldn't be too hard to pass.

"It really doesn't strike me as a controversial bill because it does have an exception for if there is an emergency," said Schroeder.

"In the event it is an urgent situation or something exigent to that, again it is going to be up to that individual law enforcement agency to justify it at the time," said Spears.

With the exception of an emergency, Spears and Schroeder believe it's necessary.

"If it is a criminal investigation, I think it's a good idea to require a judge to review it because of the potential to get into someone's privacy," said Spears.

"Just because the technology comes to a place where we can find out information, doesn't mean that we should be doing that," said Schroeder.

The bill outlines specific guidelines law enforcement officials have to follow to get a warrant. However, they will be allowed to apply for them through oral or written communication and it should only take a matter of hours to obtain one.

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