UPDATE: House Bill 1168 is set to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee.
House Bill 1168 is related to offering electronic driver’s licenses in North Dakota.
This particular bill is a case of well-meaning, unintended consequences. At first glance, it seems like there would be no issue with allowing people to have electronic driver’s licenses instead of actual physical ones.
However, the practical application of the endeavor presents Fourth Amendment concerns.
The best example is an interaction with law enforcement. If you are pulled over for speeding, for example, and the police officer asks to see your driver’s license, how does that occur with an electronic license? The best we can understand is that the person will have the license on their smart phone, which means they will then be asked, or feel obligated, to hand over their unlocked phone to the officer. No citizen should have to hand over their personal items to law enforcement without a warrant or probable cause in this manner. There are two bills on this topic where one tries to address this concern by saying that law enforcement can only ask, but not require, a person’s phone to be handed over, but this does little to address the concern. Few people will think they’re able to say no to an officer when the officer asks for their phone. Additionally, officers will likely not clarify that handing over the phone is optional and not mandatory.
Ultimately, it is because of potential privacy abuses related to this bill that cause our opposition.