Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Caitlin Keane


After the Diaz decision in January, Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat representing San Francisco, took matters into his own hands and drafted Senate Bill 914. In short, the bill would have overturned the Court's decision and required law enforcement to obtain a search warrant from a neutral magistrate before searching arrestees' portable electronic devices. The bill passed with overwhelming support from both political parties in the State Assembly and State Senate and needed only Governor Brown's signature or tacit approval to become law. Governor Brown vetoed the bill in October 2011, stating, "[t]he courts are better suited to resolve the complex and casespecific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections." This note will first provide a brief summary of Fourth Amendment search and seizure doctrine, specifically the warrant requirement and its existing exceptions. It will then discuss the current state of the law regarding searching portable electronic devices and suggest what approach the United States Supreme Court should adopt to resolve the confusion surrounding the issue. The second half of the Note will take a closer look at Senate Bill 914, including its legislative history, why it is necessary, and possible unstated reasons why it was vetoed. Lastly, the Note will argue that Governor Brown should not have vetoed Senate Bill 914 based on his given explanation, because the legislature, rather than the courts, should resolve complex technological issues.