New Digital Privacy Law in Effect in California

In days gone by, it wasn’t unusual for people to be pulled over or questioned by the police, only to watch as a law enforcement officer scrolled through their cell phone looking for incriminating information. Those days in California are gone, effective immediately. Police are no longer permitted to search through your digital records, including texts, emails and other files contained in your phone.

California has passed the Electronic Communication Privacy Act. That legislation makes it a requirement for law enforcement personnel to obtain a warrant for any digital record they wish to retrieve. That includes texts, photos, personal emails and even a phone user’s physical location.

The law aims to strike a balance between what is considered privacy and what is thought to be public safety. It applies to any device that contains personal data, and it applies to all corporations that keep your data safe. So what does this mean for you?

If you are ever stopped by the police or questioned after the suspected commission of a crime, you do not have to give the police permission to look at your smartphone, cell phone or other mobile device. In fact, if the officer does so without your permission, they are in violation of the law. This does not mean, however, that you do not have to hand over your device if you are taken into custody. It simply means that no officer can scroll through it without your As with any law, there are exceptions. If your phone is suspected by an officer to contain information that will help to prevent the serious injury or death of another person, no warrant is necessary. That officer will need, later, to explain exactly why they believed that searching through your phone was immediately necessary.

Dave Maass from Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the law was a benefit for law enforcement. Instead of having to deal with the policies and procedures of different corporations, the law blankets all devices and entities that store data, making it easier for officers to do their jobs within the scope of the law.

If you have been arrested and need an attorney, contact our offices today. We will review the details of your case and advise you how to best proceed. Your first call is free.

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