As you may recall, I wrote about warrantless cell phone searched HERE after reading about the People v. Diaz, which held that information in cell phones may be searched without a warrant or other judicial supervision.
As I said before, the Administration of Justice major in me thinks the practice is a quick way to get information to use against the suspect. As an investigatory practice, it sounds expedient but the Constitutionalist in me says STOP! What's the rush? Go get a warrant.
There is a push from the California Senate and supported by the Assembly to protect against warrantless electronic searches. Senate Bill 914, sponsored by Mark Leno (D) authored the proposed law. I think this marks the first time I have agreed with any bill proposed by Leno, someone I consider a far-left liberal.
Giving me some "conservative comfort", the bill will not hamper officers under exigent circumstances such as when safety is threatened or destruction of data is imminent.
The California Supreme Court ruled on January 3, 2011 that police may search the files and data stored on the cell phones of suspects who are arrested without having to obtain a warrant. The Court likened cell phones to an article of clothing.
It is archaic and short-sighted to liken cell phones to an article of clothing or a wallet; they are more akin to minicomputers, often containing extensive, intimate personal and professional data. Applications on phones store financial information, bank records and passwords, not to mention personal e-mails, photos and text messages. Giving police offers undue power to seize and peruse cell phones without a warrant is a threat to fundamental rights.
As shocked as I am that I agree with Leno's bill, I am glad to see it moving forward. There was some language in the original bill which created a basis for the State to reimburse local agencies for State-mandated costs. That was removed and the current version is clean and clear.
"Warrant? Is this guy for real? I don't need a
warrant to search his camera. Oops! I accidentally
destroyed the FILM in the camera. Sorry."