blog home Criminal Defense New California Law Requires Warrant for Cell Phone Searches

New California Law Requires Warrant for Cell Phone Searches

By San Diego Attorney on October 12, 2015

As technology continues to develop, the laws that monitor the use of this technology must also develop. Sadly, California has remained far behind in this area for the last several years. Laws on how and when officers can seize and search a “suspect’s” cell phone, computer, or other electronic devices were very vague and arguably unjust until last Thursday.

Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation that will now require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before they can dig through a suspect’s text messages, emails, or other electronic information. Senate Bill 178 was pioneered by Senator Mark Leno and Senator Joel Anderson. The bill was heavily supported by a coalition of major tech companies and civil rights organizations and will help boost the rights and privacy of consumers in regards to their electronic information.

New Privacy Protections for California Residents

While some law enforcement organizations first opposed the bill and Brown formerly vetoed a similar bill in years past, technology is now at the point where California can longer ignore the need to uphold stronger civil right protections for residents.

Google, Apple, and Facebook have all seen a serious surge in police request for data and information of suspects using their software, devices, or technology platforms. These requests once diminished the rights and privacy of California residents, but they will now be under much closer scrutiny, requiring a valid warrant before any personal information can be given out.

One of the authors of the bill commented that, “For too long, California’s digital privacy laws have been stuck in the Dark Ages, leaving our personal emails, text messages, photos and smartphones increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches.”

Thankfully, that lurking danger ended last Thursday when the bill was signed into legislation.

“Stingray” Technology Under Discretion of New Laws

Not only do law enforcement organizations have to gain a warrant for cell phone or electronic information searches, but they must also gain warrants for “Stingray” technology practices. Stingray technology tricks nearby cell phones to reveal their GPS location, which can allow law enforcement to track individuals or suspects and establish their location.

Police agencies can no longer tap service providers to gain access to information about users or data from servers / cell phone towers. Now, they must go through the proper protocol when investigating individuals by getting a warrant—which means they must establish probable cause.

While law enforcement is still given the freedom to perform warrantless searches in cases where someone is in immediate danger, the new privacy laws will effectively protective California residents from having their personal messages, emails, and electronic information unfairly mined by police.

Have questions or concerns about your privacy? Call JD Law in San Diego if law enforcement has violated your rights.

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