Warrantless Cellphone Searches Legal Again In California

Californians may have started celebrating their cellphone privacy too soon. After talk of passing a law to make warrantless searches of cellphones during arrests illegal, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the law, giving officers the power to snoop through your cell phone as they wish for whatever reason they deem reasonable.

If you do end up getting arrested in the state of California, police have full rights to go through your cellphone, which will give them legal access to your e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, could-storage service, GPS activity, and whatever else you might have on there. And don’t think that by setting a lock code on your phone, or the fact that the officer only had the phone for a few minutes, makes a difference. With the high tech forensics tools that officers have, they can download all of your phone’s data in moments and completely bypass all of the security and privacy safeguards you might have in place.

Why exactly did Brown decide to veto this law? He want to leave it to the courts:

“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote.

According to Wired magazine, the veto of this law might also have been influenced by Brown’s campaign donors:

“Brown’s veto also shores up support with police unions and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a police union that opposed the legislation and recently donated $38,900 to Brown’s campaign coffers. “Restricting the authority of a peace officer to search an arrestee unduly restricts their ability to apply the law, fight crime, discover evidence valuable to an investigation and protect the citizens of California,” the association said in a message.



That support would be key if Brown decides to seek a second term.



In the last year alone, at least seven police unions donated more than $12,900 each to Brown. Those unions, including the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, had given Brown more than $160,000 in combined contributions.“

It seems that, at the moment, California is not the place you want to get arrested if you own a smartphone. Hopefully, with the courts rethinking this decision, a compromise will be arrived upon that benefits both civilians and law enforcement officials. Until then, leave your phone at home if you plan on doing something that might get you arrested.

(Via Wired)  / (Image by Phil Roeder licensed under Creative Commons)

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