Monday, October 10, 2011

California Gov. Brown allows warrantless cellphone searches

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Police officer with cellphone
Let us relieve you of this burden, sir

It’s not just the Obama administration that carries on the Bush & co. legacy of dismissing citizens’ civil liberties as mere splinters in their sides:

California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest.

The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled.

Police across the country are given wide latitude to search persons incident to an arrest based on the premise of officer safety. Now the nation’s states are beginning to grapple with the warrantless searches of mobile phones done at the time of an arrest.

Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.

I can’t tell if that sort of governing is cowardly or just lazy. A governor’s duty is to their state and their state alone. It seems to me that if they are unfit to make their own pronouncement upon a given matter, then they need to consort with other experts and leaders who can give them proper counsel for them to make up their own mind, not default to whatever the higher court decided previously, especially without even adding a comment of their own. That’s not leadership; it’s lazy. (And, in this case, leads to unambiguously wrong results.)

It’s official: The Fourth Amendment is no longer just a joke, it’s actually become bad politics.

(via @normative)