By Rep. Josh Yokela for The Liberty Block
The NH Constitution gives protection from searches without a warrant in Article 19. Additionally, the newly adopted Article 2-b of the NH Constitution says we have the right to be “free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information.” What does that mean to you? Would you expect our Attorney General’s office to get a warrant before demanding personal information about you? Would you expect the Attorney General’s office to facilitate Police Departments across the state’s access to personal information about you without a warrant?
In 2001, RSA 7:6-b was changed to allow the attorney general to demand private information from communication carriers like Google, Facebook, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and many more with just “reasonable grounds for belief” that the service “may be used for an unlawful purpose.”
That is a far cry from the ‘probable cause’ required for a search warrant and this could potentially be used by law enforcement when they are denied a search warrant. In 2011, in the State of New Hampshire v. James W. Mello, the government argued that even though the Keene Police Department search warrant used in the case was invalid, they didn’t need a search warrant because they could have just asked the AG to get the information under RSA 7:6-b, so the information obtained under the invalid warrant should be allowed in court, and the NH Supreme Court agreed.
You might expect when the 2018 Article 2-b amendment to the NH Constitution was passed, that the AG’s office would have stopped requesting personal information without a search warrant, but a Right-To-Know request has found that the AG has made demands for private information under this law 41 times since the passage of the Article 2-b and all but one were at the behest of local law enforcement. HB 539 which just passed the NH House of Representatives seeks to restore the need for our AG (and, by extension, local law enforcement) to get a search warrant before demanding access to our personal information kept by these communication carriers.
You can support the protections of personal information from government intrusion by emailing your NH Senator to support HB 539.
District 01 – Senator Erin Hennessey – Erin.Hennessey@leg.state.nh.us
District 02 – Senator Bob Giuda – Bob.Giuda@leg.state.nh.us
District 03 – Senator Jeb Bradley – Jeb.Bradley@leg.state.nh.us
District 04 – Senator David Watters – David.Watters@leg.state.nh.us
District 05 – Senator Suzanne Prentiss – Suzanne.Prentiss@leg.state.nh.us
District 06 – Senator James Gray – James.Gray@leg.state.nh.us
District 07 – Senator Harold French – Harold.French@leg.state.nh.us
District 08 – Senator Ruth Ward – Ruth.Ward@leg.state.nh.us
District 09 – Senator Denise Ricciardi – Denise.Ricciardi@leg.state.nh.us
District 10 – Senator Jay Kahn – Jay.Kahn@leg.state.nh.us
District 11 – Senator Gary Daniels – Gary.Daniels@leg.state.nh.us
District 12 – Senator Kevin Avard – Kevin.Avard@leg.state.nh.us
District 13 – Senator Cindy Rosenwald – Cindy.Rosenwald@leg.state.nh.us
District 14 – Senator Sharon Carson – Sharon.Carson@leg.state.nh.us
District 15 – Senator Rebecca Whitley – Becky.Whitley@leg.state.nh.us
District 16 – Senator Kevin Cavanaugh – Kevin.Cavanaugh@leg.state.nh.us
District 17 – Senator John Reagan – John.Reagan111@gmail.com
District 18 – Senator Donna Soucy – Donna.Soucy@leg.state.nh.us
District 19 – Senator Regina Birdsell – Regina.Birdsell@leg.state.nh.us
District 20 – Senator Lou D’Allesandro – Lou.Dallesandro@leg.state.nh.us
District 21 – Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka – Rebecca.PerkinsKwoka@leg.state.nh.us
District 22 – Senator Chuck Morse – Chuck.Morse@leg.state.nh.us
District 23 – Senator Bill Gannon – William.Gannon@leg.state.nh.us
District 24 – Senator Tom Sherman – Tom.Sherman@leg.state.nh.us
This article was also published on Josh’s website.