California bill could require warrant for cell phone searches

More and more of our personal and professional lives are found in our smartphones and other portable electronic devices. Things like emails, text messages, photos, videos, apps, web site histories and more gives lots of information about the owner of such products. But what if you suddenly got arrested? Could law enforcement authorities just search what's inside your cell phone on a whim? In California, that kind of situation could soon be regulated if a proposed state bill becomes law.

CNN reports that California's state assembly has already passed the bill which would require law enforcement organizations to obtain a warrant to search the contents of any portable electronic devices, including cell phones, of a person who has been arrested. The bill is now in the hands of California's Governor Jerry Brown who needs to sign the bill for it to become law by October 9. The bill doesn't just cover cell phones but also devices like laptops, tablets, eReaders, media players, portable game consoles. flash drives, and more. The Peace Officers Research Association of California is opposed to the bill becoming law, claiming that it would restrict their ability to fight crime.

This issue has come up in other US states. A court decision in Ohio barred police from searching portable electronic products without a warrant but other court decisions in Florida and Georgia have actually allowed warrantless cell phone searches. Hanni Fakhoury, the staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes that this issue will find its way eventually to the US Supreme Court, saying, "None of the cases involved relied solely on state law. They all raised constitutional issues. There would be no reason for the Supreme Court not to get involved."

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