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Lesniak-Girgenti Bill Requiring Telecommunications Companies To Cooperate With Law Enforcement In Emergencies Approved In Senate

Bill Would Require Caller Location Info Be Provided in Certain Cases

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and John A. Girgenti which would require telecommunications companies to provide caller location information for crime victims to law enforcement agencies was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 39-0.

“When time is of the essence, law enforcement agencies need to be able to use every tool at their disposal to get criminals off the streets and protect innocent victims from physical harm,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Using cell tower triangulation, global positioning, or enhanced 9-1-1, law enforcement officials can pin-point a mobile device signal to within a few feet. However, because of regulatory and legal blockades, location data is currently off-limits, even if the crime victim consents to its disclosure.”

“As mobile technology becomes such a big part of our everyday lives, we’re storing more and more personal information on cell phones and blackberries, making these devices a prime target for identity thieves,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. “If police officers had access to location information for stolen mobile devices at a moment’s notice, hopefully these devices could be recovered before the damage is done to a person’s credit rating. By giving police agencies the flexibility under the law to make use of location data for mobile devices, we can hopefully protect crime victims from further victimization.”

The bill, S-2841, would amend the State’s wiretapping statute to require cell phone carriers and mobile broadband providers to disclose location information regarding a crime victim’s mobile or wireless communications device under certain circumstances. Under the bill, the location information would be disclosed if the law enforcement agency has obtained a warrant, the consent of the subscriber or customer, a court order, or if the agency believes in good faith that the victim might be in danger of death or serious bodily harm if the information is delayed. The bill identifies location information as global position system (GPS) data, enhanced 9-1-1 data, cellular site information and tower triangulation, and any other information that would assist law enforcement in tracking the physical location of a cell phone or wireless mobile device.

Under the State’s current wiretapping law, service providers are required to provide a call record or other information pertaining to a service subscriber if law enforcement has obtained a warrant, customer consent or a court order. However, the two lawmakers noted that the current law does not include location information in the types of information that must be disclosed, and does not make provisions for life-and-death emergencies. Under the Senators’ legislation, only location information would be provided if the law enforcement officials suspected that the victim might be in danger.

“There are times in a criminal investigation when delays can mean the difference between life and death,” said Senator Girgenti. “Particularly in hostage situations and kidnappings, having access to location information can help law enforcement officials find a crime victim before it’s too late.”

Senator Lesniak said that his recent experience in which intruders broke into his Elizabeth home and robbed him underscored the need for this legislation. During the robbery, the thieves took the Senator’s blackberry. Had the Senator’s cell phone carrier been able to cooperate with local law enforcement officials, police could have tracked down and apprehended the thieves much quicker, reducing the risk to the rest of the community, said the lawmaker.

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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