Don't search my cell phone

No peeking, officer

Privacy and civil-liberties activists are thrilled by state Sen. Mark Leno's bill the prevents the cops from searching cell phones without a warrant. And the bill makes perfect sense -- if I get stopped and arrested and have a laptop computer in my backpack, the police can't turn it on and start reading my email without a warrant. But right now, they can freely scroll through the same information on my cell phone.

But one of the more interesting things this bill would do is protect reporters.

Think about it: When I'm out covering a demonstration, I'm not only getting tips from sources (possibly confidential sources) about what's going on, I'm probably writing dispatches for this website -- and it's pretty well established in law that the police can't force me to give up sources or to show them unpublished drafts of news reports. But it's all sitting there in my phone -- which these days functions as a mobile office. I might have emails from my lawyer, discussing police access issues and possible litigation, on the phone. I might have messages from other reporters making comments about individual police officers that aren't likely ever to be printed. And unless Gov. Brown signs the Leno bill, that's all material that any police officer who arrests me for anything (and I was once arrested at a demonstration for "conspiracy to loiter") can start reading.

Law enforcement gave Brown a lot of money, but come on -- this one's a no-brainer.