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Proposed law would shake up police tactics in California

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Mar 30, 2023

A proposed law could drastically change police tactics in California.

Assembly Bill 93 would bring an end to warrantless searches where someone gives an officer permission to search their car or any personal property.

The bill making its way through the California Assembly could make it illegal for a police officer to search through someone’s belongings without a warrant or probable cause.

“I really believe that it’s intended to disrupt law enforcement’s tools that we have and make it harder for law enforcement to solve crimes and to protect people,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow, who says that outlawing consensual searches will drag out investigations and make it harder for people to prove that they’re innocent.

“It pushes to the side and ignores this very important rule that the government should not engage in the practice of encroaching on people’s privacy without a warrant supported by probable cause or where appropriate, probable cause without a warrant,” said Carmen Nicole Cox, Director of Government Affairs for ACLU California Action.

The ACLU says these searches rarely turn up evidence and can lead to unnecessary police confrontation.

Groups like the California District Attorneys Association say that outlawing these searches could lead to lost evidence and unsolved crimes.

“Victims of crime are disproportionately those vulnerable people in the community—people of color, people in minority communities, and this bill harms them,” said Dow. “We should, as a society, and our elected leaders should be encouraging people to cooperate with law enforcement for the betterment of all of us as opposed to creating a wedge, trying to divide us and saying that law enforcement should not be trusted.”

The ACLU disagrees and says that people are often pressured into allowing these searches.

“What we see is that people aren’t actually voluntarily giving up their right to be free from government intrusion, they’re feeling coerced, they’re feeling duress, they’re feeling fear,” said Nicole Cox. “Consent searches don’t result in an increase in public safety and that’s especially for people of color, for youth who are targeted.”

The California Assembly has gone into recess until April 10th, so this bill won’t be voted on for at least a couple of weeks.