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Bill would allow cops to search cell phones

A smart phone.
A smart phone.
wicker_man/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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As technology continues to play a larger role in making our daily lives easier, so too can it be used against us. Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled it legal for police to search someone’s phone upon arrest, including texts and e-mails, without a warrant. Up until this decision, warrantless searches only applied to clothing and miscellaneous items such as cigarette packs, as both are routinely used to hide drugs. Law enforcement cite the need to gather evidence as a reason for the searches; in the case that led to the Supreme Court decision, an arrestee pleaded guilty after police showed him an incriminating text on his own phone. Sen. Mark Leno, an opponent of this practice, has introduced SB 914 which would require a warrant before cell phones could be searched. The bill has passed the Senate and is now being finalized by committee before facing a vote in the Assembly. Could obtaining a warrant negatively affect law enforcement’s handling of a crime? Is perusing a person’s cell phone an invasion of privacy? If the bill passes, is Governor Jerry Brown likely to sign it into law?


Peter Scheer, Executive Director, First Amendment Coalition, one of the primary sponsor’s of Sen. Mark Leno’s Mobile Device Privacy bill SB 914

Jacqueline Lacey, Chief Deputy for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office