The new law made Montana a pioneer in the age of electronic privacy rights by requiring state and local government entities to obtain a probable-cause warrant before remotely engaging personal electronic devices.
House Bill 603, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock on May 6.
“I didn’t even know it was the first one in the country,” Zolnikov said. “We just saw other legislation and thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’”
The law defines an electronic device as “a device that enables access to or use of an electronic communication service, remote computing service, or location information service.” That could mean cellphones, laptops, tablets and other electronic products.
Although the bill’s passage marked a win for Zolnikov, he originally drafted a much more aggressive version of the bill – House Bill 400 – aimed at banning private companies and the federal government from accessing personal electronic data without a warrant.