Cell phones

The California Senate has approved a measure requiring a warrant or wiretap order to search a person’s smartphone or tablet.

By Patrick McGreevy
June 3, 2015

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require law enforcement in California to obtain a search warrant or wiretap order before searching a person’s smartphone, laptop or other electronic device or accessing information stored on remote servers.

The bill, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), also would protect locational information stored on smartphones and other devices unless police officers show probable cause to a judge.

“What the bill does is brings our state statute into the 21st century to catch up with technology with regards to privacy,” Leno told his colleagues. “Of course law enforcement needs a warrant before it can go into your mailbox and read your mail, but it does not currently need a warrant to read your emails or text communications or other electronic communications.”

The measure is supported by tech companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter as a way to clarify what their obligation is regarding providing information to law enforcement.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill, which was co-authored by Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego. “It’s very important to protecting our liberties,” Anderson said.

The bill is opposed by the California District Attorneys Assn., the California Police Chiefs Assn. and the California State Sheriffs Assn. as unnecessary and a burden to investigations.

By proposing new procedures, the bill “undermines critical efforts to stop child exploitation, mandates the destruction of evidence by law enforcement, and violates the California Constitution,” the prosecutors’ group said in a letter to lawmakers.

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