Monday, April 19, 2010

Brad Daw: Child Protection Laws and Administrative Subpoenas

Dear Delegate:

One of the lessons I have learned in my time at the legislature is that good legislation is often a very carefully crafted balancing act between two worthy but opposite goals. HB150 is a great example of this. The two goals are: 1) Give law enforcement useful tools to quickly pursue sexual predators and kidnappers; 2) Preserve people’s right to privacy. In its final form, HB150 was able to give investigators a much improved ability to track down sexual predators and significantly increase safeguards against prosecutors overstepping their bounds. Prior to HB150, investigators had to approach a federal prosecutor to obtain a subpoena to get contact information for suspected predators from internet service providers or telephone companies. The time lag involved in getting a subpoena from a federal prosecutor often put abducted children at grave risk. Also, having to use a subpoena from a federal agency prevented the state from having any real oversight on how the su bpoena power was being used or, in some cases, abused. With the passage of HB150 we accomplished three important goals:

1. State investigators now have the ability to issue subpoenas in a timely manner, which in the case of a child abduction may mean the difference between life and death.

2. Since this is now a state granted power we are able to add two specific checks:
a) Anyone using this subpoena power will be required to report to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice annually detailing how many subpoenas they issued using the state granted authority and how many were issued on their behalf by a federal prosecutor;
b) Any person whose contact information has been obtained via the state granted subpoena power must be notified of this fact within 90 days after the information was obtained.

3. By this being a state granted power it is now subject to oversight and review by the legislature and if further checks are deemed necessary, the state has the ability to implement them.

By moving our prosecutors from using a federal subpoena with no oversight from the state to a state subpoena with specific and implied oversight in place, I believe we have taken a good step forward. But, constant vigilance on the part of the legislature and the citizens in general is vital to maintaining a free society and I openly welcome any reasoned discussion of what can be done to improve this or any other law. As many of you know from experience, I am always ready to listen, to respond to your questions, and bring all interested parties together to try and work towards a better law.

For those of you who are interested, here is the text of HB150 and here is a discussion on what the law does and why it falls within the bounds of the constitution.

Brad Daw

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