2023 Bills

HB 158: Warrantless Access to Private Digital Data

This bill failed its first committee and did not receive a vote by the full legislature. Review our tracker for more information.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

In 2019, Utah became a nationwide leader in privacy by requiring law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing electronic information held by third parties. House Bill 158, sponsored by Representative Andrew Stoddard, seeks to roll back these protections and allow law enforcement to access audio or visual surveillance footage held by a private party with only a subpoena. 

Subpoenas are easier to obtain than warrants and do not require the signature of a judge. This violates the intent of the 2019 legislation and ignores common sense. Individuals should be as secure in their digital life as they are in the physical world. Police cannot search your home without a warrant. The same should be true of audio and visual footage, which may contain as much, if not more, sensitive information as your home office. 

For example, people who own home surveillance systems — like Ring — could have video footage from their homes provided to authorities without a warrant. Instead, law enforcement could simply send a subpoena to the company requesting the data.

The modern world runs on digital infrastructure that was nonexistent at the time the Fourth Amendment was drafted and incorporated in the Bill of Rights. To ensure the spirit of the Fourth Amendment is preserved in our era, Utah codified warrant requirements to ensure individual privacy of their electronic information is protected. HB 158 would unravel this protection and drastically expand the ability of law enforcement to access an individual’s electronic information without judicial oversight.

For these reasons, Libertas opposes this bill. The state legislature should vote against this bill to protect the privacy of its constituents by preserving warrant requirements for law enforcement to access digital data.