As technology and demand have made unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – commonly called drones – cheaper and more accessible, concerns about their use by law enforcement have grown. In an attempt to balance public safety with privacy rights, the California legislature recently passed AB 1327, making it the most recent state to tackle the issue.

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Aerial and camera surveillance of public areas is nothing new, but as lawmakers learned this July during a roundtable discussion, advances in technology are raising new policy questions about everything from privacy and private property to the practices of law enforcement.

Take, for example, the increased capabilities of a drone.

It now can be equipped with high-resolution cameras that observe objects, in detail, as small as 6 inches from as far as 17,000 feet away and can track 65 different targets over a 65-square-mile zone.

“There are a lot of good things that drones can be used for,” said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, noting how effective and inexpensive they have become. “But there need to be some types of guidelines in place for their use.”

States have a central role to play in setting those guidelines, added Scott, who helped facilitate the discussion among state and provincial lawmakers at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting.

Warrantless searches of cellphones?  Simple question.  Simple answer.  No (generally).  

In Riley v. California the Supreme Court held unanimously that generally police must first obtain a warrant before searching an arrested person’s cellphone.

Police searched David Riley’s cell phone after he was arrested on gun charges and found evidence of gang activity.  In a second case, police arrested Brima Wurie for selling drugs and used his cell phone to figure out where he lived—where they found more drugs and guns.    

The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a warrant before they conduct a search unless an exception applies.  The exception at issue in this case is a search incident to a lawful arrest.

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 Annual Meeting Edition

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of states to gather DNA samples from arrestees, lawmakers in two Midwestern states advanced measures to expand the scope of their collection programs.

Article by Mike Heavican, Chief Justice, Nebraska Supreme Court and 2012 CSG Toll Fellow

The core mission of all courts is the delivery of justice in a fair and timely manner. Justice may be as mundane as paying a traffic fine or as significant as protecting the constitutional rights of an accused in a capital case. Increasingly, “fair and timely,” both in paying those traffic fines and in protecting the rights of the accused, depends on technology

When it comes to emergency communication, no one size fits all.

That was the recurring theme during the State Emergency Communications session Sunday morning.

Today, The Council of State Governments joined The National Emergency Management Association and eight other organizations representing state and local government officials to urge Congress to consider key principles while developing legislation to protect the nation’s information infrastructure.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a cyber-security bill last week and the Senate is currently considering a bill which is expected to come to a vote later this month.

The organizations called on Congress to consider...

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill ending the stalemate over the payroll tax cut and assorted entitlement programs, and the Senate quickly followed suit. But the details of the bills paint an interesting picture of the political landscape as we approach the 2012 election cycle, and what may be even more important to states, the Lame Duck session of Congress that will follow it.

The bill passed by Congress would keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent through 2012, instead of springing...

In 2008, two North Carolina college students from two the state’s flagship universities were murdered. The alleged murderers were no strangers to the criminal justice system. But because of the fragmentation of information in the state’s criminal justice system, it was hard to connect the dots on the alleged murderers. Department of Correction cases are identified by an identification number, the sex offender registry uses separate identification numbers and court cases have yet another number.  North Carolina made the best of a bad situation. The murders led legislators to order the creation of an integrated data system. The result was the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services program—CJLEADS—an Innovations award winner for the Southern region.

Missouri’s SB 54, the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," doesn’t go into effect until this coming Sunday, August 28, but the law’s student-teacher social media ban is already facing a legal petition from the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA).  The law was intended to protect students from abuse by making it illegal for students and teachers to have private conversations on social media channels, but the MSTA’s petition raises several potential issues with the current scope of the law. 

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