California, land of the … questionable. Governor Brown has vetoed a bill requiring a warrant to search mobile phones at the time of arrest. Since more and more people live out of their phones, that means more than 160-character text messages; E-mails, Facebook, pictures, location etc (for those who use Blackberrys, your “super secure” BBM is open too).
Some might shrug this off, but consider that a traffic arrest might lead to phones being searched in order to seek out evidence of crimes not currently under investigation. If you get pulled over for speeding, and arrested (you were going fast, brah) you might get held and investigated for that 420 text your bro sent you, and the sudden 5k in your bank account.
If an illegal wiretap were to find evidence of a crime, that would be dismissed. Now, instead of having someone listen to hours of tape, they can quickly check your iPhone and use that against you. Jerry Brown, the governor of the Golden State, isn’t necessarily against the bill, however. It’s just “too complicated” for him to make a decision on. He also cites the recent upholding of warrantless searches of a person incident to their arrest.
Of course, if someone is arrested, they must be searched prior to transportation, for the officer’s sake. The information on someone’s phone, however, is not vital to the safety of a peace officer. The warrantless searching of cell phones is only to gather evidence which would otherwise be inadmissible in court, and can easily be abused in order to gather information on someone.
The California Assembly passed the bill 70-0, and the Senate 32-4, so Gov. Brown’s decision is squarely with the California Supreme Court, which no doubt annoys the lawmakers – and those who put Brown in office. Of course, the 4th Amendment is notoriously hard to adapt.
[quote]The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. [emphasis mine][/quote]
I suppose since “papers” could be used to describe letters, certificates, banking documents, hidden treasure maps or personal notes it’s hard to translate that to emails, PDFs, bank apps or digitally stored locations, and effects can in no way be taken to mean “personal belongings” like cell phones that this all checks out.