Civil libertarians are hopping mad over Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes of two bills Sunday: one that would’ve required police to get a warrant before searching mobile devices of arrestees, and another that would’ve limited the shackling of pregnant women inmates.
The search-warrant bill, SB 914 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was supported by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the First Amendment Coalition and the California Newspaper Publishers Association (of which, in the interests of full disclosure, my employer is a member). The bill would have limited searches of mobile devices to cases in which an officer has probable cause to believe a suspect’s device contains evidence of a crime; it would’ve allowed for exceptions in emergency circumstances.
“This measure would overturn a California Supreme Court decision that held that police officers can lawfully search the cell phones of people they arrest,” Brown – who served four years as attorney general, the state’s “top cop” – wrote in his veto message. “The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections.”
But ACLU of Northern California attorney Linda Lye said today that the courts and Brown aren’t keeping up with the technological times.
“No one would think that it’s okay for police to search a person’s financial documents, photo albums, address books, or the entire contents of their laptop without a warrant,” Lye said. “But mobile phones can hold all that information and more. We deserve the same privacy protection for our digital lives as we have offline.”
Leno said the bill “would have reinforced critical privacy protections in California law. In a rare showing of consensus, legislators and editorial boards from vastly different parts of the state and political spectrum have expressed support for this bill. Together with business owners, journalists and civil rights advocates, they believe privacy is not a partisan issue. It’s good public policy.”
Brown also vetoed AB 568 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which would’ve created statewide standards for how pregnant women in correctional facilities are restrained; the Assembly and state Senate both passed the bill unanimously. State law already bars use of shackles during labor unless deemed necessary, but the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have supported efforts to limit shackling during pregnancy due to the health risks it creates.
Dr. Phillip Diamond of Chula Vista, chair of ACOG’s ninth district, said the veto was disheartening.
“It is clear the law prohibiting shackling during labor does not go far enough,” he said. “There are many other circumstances where restraints impede the ability of the physician to provide timely and critical care, including for life-threatening conditions. Failure to sign not only fails women and the pregnancies, but leaves the state vulnerable to lawsuits for cruel and unusual punishment.”
Karen Shain, policy director at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, said her organization has accounts of pregnant women falling and endangering their pregnancies due to the excessive use of shackles. “The standards created by AB 568 would have ensured pregnant women are restrained safely. These standards are sorely needed.”
Brown wrote in his veto message that he had been inclined to sign AB 568 at first blush “because it certainly seems inappropriate to shackle a pregnant inmate unless absolutely necessary.”
“However, the language of this measure goes to far, prohibiting not only shackling but also the use of handcuffs or restraints of any kind except under ill-defined circumstances,” the governor wrote. “Let’s be clear. Inmates, whether pregnant or not, need to be transported in a manner that is safe for them and others. The restrictive criteria set forth in this bill go beyond what is necessary to protect the health and dignity of pregnant inmates and will only serve to sow confusion and invite lawsuits.”
The bill’s advocates said they’d met repeatedly with law enforcement officials in an effort to accommodate their demands, but the California State Sheriffs’ Association voiced concerns only after the bill had reached Brown’s desk, too late for further amendments.
“The CSSA was concerned that officers could not use handcuffs under AB 568, but it explicitly states that handcuffs in front are permissible if needed for safety and security reasons,” the ACLU of Northern California’s Alicia Walters said. “Last session law enforcement was concerned that officers could not use their discretion, so this year we drafted language to ensure they could put their hours of training to use under some much-needed standards.”