On the August 5th, 2014 primary election the people of Missouri voted to protect their digital data privacy from unreasonable searches and seizures with almost 75% of the votes. The original constitutional amendment in Article 1 Section 15 “Unreasonable search and seizure prohibited–contents and basis of warrants.” was enacted in 1875, and became outdated with the dawn of the computing and digital information age.
The original amendment states:
“That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes and effects, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”
Not surprisingly there was no mention of electronic data privacy in this amendment, and left digital privacy up in the air until now.
Amendment 9 in the primary election adds the words “electronic communications and data” to this amendment to try cover electronics such as computers, smart phones, internet browsing history, and other digital devices. In theory this means that law enforcement would be required to get a warrant in order to confiscate and search your computer, hard drives, smartphone, Internet access history, and other digital devices.
This was the wording on the ballet:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”
And this is what the actual constitutional amendment will be updated to:
“Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrent to search any place or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; no without probable cause, supported by a written oath or affirmation.”
While their are already protections for digital privacy enacted by the Federal government, on the state level there had been no mention of digital privacy until now.
In reality what this actually means will have to be determined by the Missouri courts system, however in theory it may give those seeking protections from unreasonable search and seizure of their smart phones and laptops during an interaction with law enforcement more protection.