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

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 Assembly yesterday by a vote of 76-0, receiving final legislative approval.

“In an emergency, a moment can be an eternity, and any tool that allows law enforcement to better fulfill their duties of serving and protecting the community needs to be available,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “In cases involving missing persons, or even in instances of stolen property, global position, cell tower triangulation and enhanced 9-1-1 capability can mean the difference between life or death, or the difference between a criminal walking free or being taken off the streets and put behind bars. These new mobile device technologies can and should be used as an invaluable public safety tool.”

“Technology is changing the way we live our lives, and a prime example of that is the cell phone revolution that has taken place in just a few short years in our nation,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. “It seems that everyone has a cell phone these days, from the elderly to elementary school students, and we’re constantly in touch with the world around us. When a person is the victim of crime, the technology exists to track down the location of the phone quickly, and either recover a missing person or arrest a criminal and protect innocent New Jerseyans 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.

“We live in an era when information can be just as valuable as material possessions, in the right hands,” said Senator Girgenti. “Unfortunately, there are individuals in New Jersey and around the nation that store important data such as bank pin codes, social security numbers and other sensitive information in their mobile devices. When a thief steals your phone, he has access to your very identity, and it’s important to be able to recover the device before more damage can be done..”

Senator Lesniak said that his recent experience last year 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.

“In my case, I was lucky that the thieves were only interested in money and possessions, and were not interested in causing me physical harm,” said Senator Lesniak. “However, in instances of violent crime or kidnapping, split-second location information for a mobile device can really mean the difference between tragedy and successful rescue. By giving law enforcement agencies access to mobile phone location info, we can hopefully empower them to act quickly when time is of the essence.”

The bill was approved by the Senate in June by a vote of 39-0, and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

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