The California legislature recently passed California bill (SB 914), which would ban warrantless searches of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices. The bill’s sponsor, California Sen. Mark Leno, sought to override a January ruling by the California Supreme Court that, he told CNN, “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.”
Now, Wired reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed the legislation.
The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled.
Police across the country are given wide latitude to search persons incident to an arrest based on the premise of officer safety. [...]
Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. [...]
“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote. [...]
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was flummoxed by Brown’s action. “It was a curious veto message suggesting that the courts could resolve this more effectively than the state Legislature,” he said in a telephone interview.
Under California statehouse rules, neither Leno nor any other lawmaker may introduce the legislation for at least a year.
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