California to allow warrantless phone searches

Posted by Emma Woollacott

California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have banned police from searching suspects' phones and even PCs without a warrant.

The veto means that police will be able to check the emails, texts, call records and banking activity of anyone they arrest, along with geolocation information.

"This measure would overturn a California Supreme Court decision that held that police officers can lawfully search the cell phones of people who they arrest," says Brown in his letter to the California State Senate.

"The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizures protections."

The bill was prompted by a January ruling by the California Supreme Court that' says its sponsor, senator Mark Leno, "legalized the warrantless search of cell phones during an arrest, regardless of whether the information on the phone is relevant to the arrest or if criminal charges are ever filed."

And the law covers "any portable device that is capable of creating, receiving, accessing, or storing electronic data or communications," meaning it could be used to access devices such as PCs or even cameras as well.

The legislation was opposed by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The police are good friends of Brown - police unions have given a total of more than $160,000 for his campaign.