Virginia ACLU Urges Lawmakers to Reign In Surveillance Powers

Apr 2, 2015

While the Virginia ACLU applauds Governor McAuliffe's signing of a number of bills this past legislative session, the organization opposes his amendments to several bills that had aimed to reign in the government’s powers of surveillance--and which passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly.  The ACLU is asking state lawmakers to reject the amendments when they soon return to Richmond.  

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One bill would have prevented law enforcement use of drone technology without a warrant. Virginia ACLU Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga says the organization agreed to some exceptions, but the amendments allow broader use in criminal proceedings of warrantless evidence obtained by drones.  She says the original goal was to strengthen 4th Amendment protections.

"Many people across the political spectrum that have supported that legislation understand that the current 4th Amendment case law is antiquated and doesn't work well with 21st century technology."

The other bill addresses law enforcement use of license plate readers and how long they can passively collect and hold on to information. Lawmakers compromised on a 7-day period unless that information is tied to an active criminal investigation. The governor sided with law enforcement agencies who want to keep the information longer, and amended that to 60 days or more. The ACLU has sent a letter asking the governor to reconsider his amendments.