I have to say, the position CA governor Jerry Brown has taken on warrantless cell phone searches is a total abdication of his responsibility to the citizens of California:
California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest.
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.
Brown’s excuse for vetoing it?
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. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.
“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote.
What wonderful reasoning, huh? Jerry Brown would never have had a problem with Plessey v. Ferguson because, you know, the court’s decision would have been viewed by him as “good enough”.
Why not make them decide then while coming down on the side of the citizens who believe that device is something which shouldn’t have open access to government? Why not approve the bill and make the court decide it is wrong and must be repealed. Why not make the court justify such searches? Why not come down on the side of privacy and against the invasion of privacy?
Isn’t that what government is supposed to do – protect the rights of its citizens from unlawful search and seizure? Brown has decided it is up to the citizens to sue to stop such an invasion and not him. So he’s going to side with those who believe that there is no inherent right to privacy when it comes to one’s cell phone and make the citizen’s of California seek protection in the courts.
Total abdication of responsibility by an elected official – something that has become more and more commonplace even though, in most cases, not as blatant. This is an assault on the 4th Amendment and it is being aided and abetted by a sitting governor.
Radley Balko notes the abdication as well and references something one of his commenters pointed out:
Cell phones are also not simple “containers” to the extent that modern phones show both local data and vastly more data information stored in cloud services, often all integrated together seamlessly to the user. These law enforcement searches are actually retrieving information stored in “containers” elsewhere.
In other words, this gives them instant access to data for which they’d otherwise have to get a warrant. It allows police to go far beyond searching just the device itself. It allows them access to records and data far removed from where the search is taking place without a warrant.
Now, you tell me: how difficult, assuming probable cause exists, would it be for the police to hold the device, submit probable cause to a judge and obtain a warrant without losing any of the expected “evidence” the phone would provide?
And, how many of you believe, given this abdication by Brown, that police won’t take advantage of and use “traffic stops” to seized and search cell phones of those they suspect of other crimes?
Yeah, they’d never do that.
Isn’t it the job of a governor to err on the side of the citizen’s rights?
Governor Brown should be ashamed – mortified – at the abdication of his role as protector of the people of his state. And the people of his state should do what is right and make sure that when the time comes, he’s given his walking papers.