Under a new bill, warranted searches have been expanded to include recorded digital information.

What is it? 

Assembly Bill 1638.

AB 1638 allows search warrants to be issued if the property being seized is recorded electronic data, namely in the form of audio and video. The camera or other recording device would have to be installed by the manufacturer (such as backup cameras), and not put in by a third party.

The bill further stipulates that a warrant can only be issued for the data if it recorded or thought to have recorded a crime involving a car resulting in death or injury.

Who Backed It? 

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) authored the bill. Assemblyman Obernolte has been a long time supporter of expanding search warrant parameters. His last warrant bill, AB 2710, streamlined the process for law enforcement to get search and arrest warrants, and was signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2018.

For AB 2710, Assemblyman Obernolte has specifically targeted the “black box” that is installed in some vehicles, that records the audio of what is happening inside, saying that it is important for law enforcement to have in cases where a crime occurred.

“[AB 2710] will aid law enforcement in their accident investigation by allowing them access to a car’s “black box”, which provides crucial scientific data that helps law enforcement determine how an accident occurred,” said Assemblyman Obernolte earlier this year.

Police and public safety groups have also come out in support of the bill, stating that it is important for law enforcement to have the proper evidence.

Opponents include civil liberty organizations, who have said that this kind of warrant takes people’s private property and violates their rights. Several Democrats have also not supported the bill, saying that these warrants target companies with union workers. Certain unions rules state that black boxes must be inside vehicles at all times, often for insurance purposes.

What happened?

AB 1638 received full support of Republicans and most Democrats in both houses. Despite many Democrats choosing to abstain in voting due to the bills’ complexities over warrants, and other Democrats giving last minute speeches voicing their opposition to the bill, it succeeded. AB 1638 passed 32-4 in the Senate and 60-9 in the Assembly.

Current Status:

Signed into Law.

Governor Newsom made AB 1638 one of the first bills made into law this session, signing it into law earlier this month.

 

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