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website -- and it's pretty well established in law that the police can't force me to give up sources or to show them unpublished drafts of news reports.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.


the case where the results of a search can be used at trial, and where the search itself is illegal.

A cop who has reasonable cause can stop and search you, and by implication that includes anything in your possession that might reasonably provide evidence of any crimianl intent. A notebook would be fair game, so why wouldn't your phone be too?

If you object to that search later, and convince a judge, then the contents of that "notebook" will not be admissable evidence. That kind of thing happens all the time.

But the basic rule is always this - if you're up to no good, don't carry around with you evidence that proves that. Even petty criminals know to toss the loot, the drugs or the weapon.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

If I'm simply covering a demonstration, and I get arrested by mistake (happens quite often), then a cop shouldn't have the right to search my email -- whether or not it's used in court. That's the point.

Posted by tim on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

But why are you for more invasive government everywhere else?

Posted by meatlock on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

The state should as much as possible stay out of everyones business. Without a warrant cops should stay out of people personal papers and electronic devices.

One wonders though why you were for this...

"Within 90 days from the effective date of this section, any resident of the City and County of San Francisco may surrender his or her handgun at any district station of the San Francisco Police Department, or to the San Francisco Sheriffs Department without penalty under this section."

Posted by matlock on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

Wow... That's a new one meatpuppet. Did you come up with that original, witty and incisive repartee all by yourself?

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

The emphasis on the "Constitutional" rights of free speech, peaceful assembly and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure seem to capture Tim's attention far more than the right to bear arms.

Why, I wonder, the disparity?

Moreover, Tim, if a policeman stopped me and stated that he believed an examination of my cell phone, laptop or notebook would aid his prevention or investigation of a crime, I would freely give it to him. I want to help law enforcement, not hinder or subvert them. Those who don't share that co-operative outlook can only blame themselves if thereby they become the object of greater adverse scrutiny.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

Would be great of our state senator to get with the regular town hall meeting agenda. I'd like for progressives and liberals to demand more public engagement from Leno.

He's got plenty of time for galas, awards dinners where he gets a prize, endless photo-ops and glad-handing, but when it comes to holding public forums he's too busy with the budget.

Leno is a career gay Dem biding his time till Pelosi retires, and speaking of Pelosi she's also not known for town halls either!

Posted by MPetrelis on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 9:42 pm