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No More Warrantless Tech Searches in California

Senior Airman Daniel Burkhardt and Staff Sgt. Christopher Bevins, both Air Force broadcast journalists currently supporting Joint Task Force – National Capital Region, a task force of Department of Defense military and civilian personnel stood up in support of the 57th Presidential Inauguration, put the finishing touches on a cellphone application Jan. 14 that they designed from the ground up to provide real time information on the historic event. Burkhardt and Bevins have come from 11th Wing Public Affairs on their home station, Joint Base Andrews, Md. Their app, called “Inauguration,” was released by Apple Inc. Jan. 14 and is currently available through the corporation’s App Store. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

A new California law is set to protect the privacy rights of individuals across the state. Police can no longer search a suspect’s text messages, emails or other electronic communications without a warrant. The law was signed last week by Governor Jerry Brown.

Initially, many law enforcement organizations opposed SB 178. Tech companies and civil rights organizations, on the other hand, backed it. In recent years, Apple, Google, Facebook and other tech powerhouses have seen an uptick in the request for data information by police. A similar bill was vetoed by the governor just a few short years ago.

Senator Mark Leno, one of the authors of the bill, said, “For too long, California’s digital privacy laws have been stuck in the Dark Ages, leaving our personal emails, text messages, photos and smartphones increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches. That ends today.”

What this means to anyone arrested is this: The police cannot simply scroll through your mobile device because you are in custody. If the police believe that there is data in your phone that could tie you to a crime, they must obtain a warrant to be able to legally access your data. If they choose to look without a warrant, the evidence will not be admissible. This is true of any device: smartphones, tablets and computers.

Amid the passing of this law, Brown vetoed six bills. One would have included bouncers in the definition of proprietary security officer and one would have made it easier for Air Force members to receive a certain type of Cal Grant.

If you have been arrested for a crime in California, you need an attorney who is able to fight aggressively for your rights. Hire an attorney you can trust. Call Milligan, Beswick, Levine, & Knox LLP today for a free case evaluation. We will review the details of your arrest and advise you how to best move forward. Call now.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.