Sure, a lot of what we do at the Montana Legislature is play defense battling bills that seek to strip away your civil liberties. But we're really excited this year that two bills we worked to write and lobbied to pass are on their way to becoming law.
At the heart of both is your privacy.
Governor Steve Bullock has already signed SB 194, to restrict the use of strip and body cavity searches. We saw the need for this law last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Florence v. Burlington that law enforcement can strip search anyone, regardless of the offense. The case was horrifying. In it, a New Jersey man, Albert Florence, was erroneously arrested for failing to pay a traffic fine he had already paid, dragged off to jail, incarcerated for six days and subjected to two invasive strip searches. We did not want that to happen to anyone in Montana.
SB 194 prohibits the police in Montana from strip or body cavity searching anyone arrested for anything other than a felony unless they have reasonable the person is concealing a weapon, contraband, or evidence of the commission of a crime. Big thanks to Sen. Anders Blewett (D-Great Falls) for sponsoring the bill.
The second bill seeks to prevent an emerging privacy problem before it gets out of hand -- aerial drone surveillance. SB 196 has passed in both the Senate and House and will soon be on its way to the governor's desk.
Drones have become much cheaper and much smaller, making them more attractive to state and local law enforcement. To make sure that they aren't used to spy on Montanans, this law requires a warrant for their use for surveillance. Any evidence collected with unmanned aircraft in violation of the law may not be used in court or to obtain a search warrant.
Thanks to Sen. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) for championing this bill.