Bill to Limit Police Power to Cut Phone Service Advances in California

The California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications has approved a bill that would repeal current laws that allow law enforcement officials to interrupt, cut, or otherwise divert telephone service in order to protect public safety, and would instead prohibit law enforcement or a service provider from interrupting a communications service except in an “extreme emergency situation” or if the interruption is authorized by court order.

AB 1034, which is sponsored by Assembly Member Ed Chau (D.), would “prohibit any government entity, or service provider acting at the request of a government entity, from interrupting a communication service either to prevent the communications service from being used for an illegal purpose or to protect public health, safety, or welfare.”

The bill would require a court order to obtain specified information, which a court could grant if, among other things, “there is probable cause that the communication is being or will be used for an unlawful purpose and that absent immediate and summary action to interrupt the communication service, serious, direct, and immediate danger to public health, safety, or welfare will result.”

The bill would also require a government entity interrupting a communications service due to an extreme emergency situation to apply for a court order without delay, and if possible, to file the application within six hours after commencement of interruption.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. —Carrie DeLeon, carrie.deleon@wolterskluwer

Courtesy TRDaily