The legislation was introduced in response to the outcry from civil rights advocates following the January California Supreme Court decision of People v. Diaz, which permitted law enforcement officers to troll through the contents of an arrestee’s cell phone without a warrant. The opinion was criticized by dissenting judges for failing to address the differences between a cell phone, which holds vast amounts of data, and a packet of cigarettes or article of clothing, both of which have limited volumes and visible contents.
Civil liberties groups and criminal defense lawyers believe the new law is necessary to address the privacy concerns created by modern technologies. The extensive amount of personal information contained within smart phones make them more analogous to computers, which require warrants before they can be searched.
Despite objections from police, the new law is not expected to hamper law enforcement efforts. The standard exceptions to the warrant requirement still apply. Police will be able to search a cell phone without a warrant if it is necessary to prevent a crime from occurring, the destruction of evidence or an injury to someone.
The legislation has a few more stops before being enacted. Slight adjustments to the original bill require the measure to go back to the Senate before it goes to Governor Jerry Brown for final signature into law.
Source: sfgate.com, “California Assembly passes cell-phone privacy bill,” Marisa Lagos, 23 August 2011