New Laws for 2016

Here are summaries of some of the many laws that have gone into effect in California in 2016. 

SB 707 prohibits most people from carrying a concealed weapon on a school or college campus. The current law forbids carrying a concealed weapon within one thousand feet of a college or school, but this legislation goes further and bans concealed carry on school or college premises. State Senator Lois Wolk, from Davis, authored the legislation. If you are an active or retired law enforcement officer, you are not covered by this legislation and can still carry a concealed weapon. In light of the many shootings in recent years across the country, there is a lot of debate about allowing school personnel to carry weapons, concealed or otherwise. The research and data show, however, that allowing staff and even students to carry weapons would not increase safety.

SB 178 mandates that law enforcement agencies, like the police or sheriff, obtain a warrant before they access digital records, like texts, photos, GPS information, and emails. This is an important protection for personal privacy. The new law, called the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, applies to all types of technology devices and even covers the companies that store your personal data, like Apple, Google, or Facebook. The law does contain exceptions to this prohibition, such as when there is an emergency or someone is threatened with death or serious injury. Other exceptions are: when a device is taken from a jail or prison inmate; when the device’s owner has given consent to law enforcement personnel that it is okay to access data; and in instances when a device has been stolen or lost and officials are attempting to determine who it belongs to. Take note that if a law enforcement officer asks you for your permission to access data on your phone or computer, you are not required to allow them to do so. If there is a legitimate reason for police to access information on your devices, they can obtain a warrant.  

SB 424, authored by local State Senator Richard Pan, grants to university and college police departments in the state the power to use body-worn cameras and things called pretext phone calls when investigating campus crimes like robbery, burglary, sexual assault and other serious crimes. Campus law enforcement personnel claim that the pretext phone calls will be used mostly when investigating sexual assault crimes. Pretext phone calls are recorded phone calls that a victim makes to a suspect while being supervised by an officer. Law enforcement’s goal is to gather evidence on the suspect to determine if a crime has been committed. The body-worn cameras will be used to document instances when campus officers and students interact. Some campus groups, like the Council of UC Faculty Associations, opposed the new law saying that its granting of authority is too vague and can be used even when a crime has not been committed. 

AB 953 requires state and local law enforcement agencies to gather data on race and ethnicity whenever an officer stops a citizen, whether through a traffic stop or a pedestrian stop. This data must then be sent each year to the Attorney General’s office for compilation and analysis. The type of information on stops that must be gathered include the location, date, time, and reason. A Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board will be created to review the data and assist with elimination of identity and race profiling by law enforcement. Depending on the size of the law enforcement department, data will have to be sent to the Attorney General’s office beginning in 2019.

AB 1014 grants to family members and law enforcement agencies the ability to obtain temporary restraining orders that limit someone’s ability to access a firearm when they are showing signs that they are at risk of committing an act of violence. Specifically, the restraining order would prevent the person from possessing or buying a firearm while the order is in effect. This new legislation is called the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act. The person who is the subject of a restraining order will have an opportunity to appear before a judge and challenge the accusation that they are a potential risk.

SB 741 mandates that local law enforcement agencies meet specific requirements before they obtain any technology that allows then to intercept cellular communications. Some of the provisions include having protocols in place that protect the information that has been obtained, as well as policies regarding how the technology will be used, who will get to use it, and how information will be shared with other agencies. In addition, law enforcement agencies are required to post their usage and privacy policies on the web for public reference.