- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to obtain location records from mobile devices without search warrants.

Opponents of the legislation said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that House Bill 377 lowers the standard of probable cause that law enforcement officials must meet before obtaining cellphone tracking information.

Supporters say the proposed legislation will provide a uniform standard across the state for obtaining real-time location information of an individual involved in an investigation.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must obtain search warrants before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects.

Although the ruling did not impose a warrant requirement or a probable cause standard for obtaining real-time location records, both practices became commonplace in several jurisdictions, including the city of Baltimore, for obtaining real-time location information records.

Cellphones register their positions with cell towers dozens of times a day, and mobile carriers retain location data on their customers.

A comprehensive log of a person’s whereabouts over time can deny a resident the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, opponents of the bill said during the hearing.

“The [American Civil Liberties Union] of Maryland opposes H.B. 377,” said Sara Love,” public policy director for the organization. “Regardless of this probable cause language that has been put in, the standard is really a much lower one.”

Law enforcement officials applaud the bill, saying it is not overly intrusive and that it could aid police in tracking the whereabouts of an abducted child or missing person.

“We are not going onto property or attaching a device to a car. We are getting records from a third-party service provider,” said Kim Oldham, deputy state’s attorney for Howard County.