Capitol Alert

Bill requiring search warrants for electronic communications sent to Jerry Brown

Police would require a warrant to search someone’s cell phone under SB 178.
Police would require a warrant to search someone’s cell phone under SB 178. The Sacramento Bee file

Will Gov. Jerry Brown finally sign legislation shielding personal digital information from police searches?

The California Senate on Wednesday sent the governor Senate Bill 178, which would require officers to obtain a warrant before accessing electronic devices and the e-mails, text messages and geolocation data found on them, except in instances where a loss of life or evidence is imminent.

Despite a late push by law enforcement groups that nearly held up the measure in the Assembly over concerns about its effect on child pornography investigations, SB 178 passed the Senate with little objection on a 32-4 bipartisan vote.

“These new cell phones, they’re not phones. They’re handheld computers,” said Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, the bill’s co-author. “They should be under the same rules and obligations as if you were coming into my house to seize my home computer.”

But Brown has rejected similar efforts from author Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in recent years. A 2012 bill mandating warrants for government searches of location data and a 2013 bill requiring a warrant to ask service providers for e-mails were both vetoed.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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