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Will California’s Kill Switch Law Reduce Phone Theft?

In August 2014, California passed a “kill switch” law requiring all smartphones sold in the state to include built-in remote locking technology. The “kill switch” law, which went into effect July, allows the owner of a smartphone to disable the device even when he or she does not have possession of the phone. The largest smartphone manufacturers, Apple and Google, are offering remote kill software, known as “Activation Lock” and “Device Protection,” respectively.

How does kill switch technology work?

kill switch law CaliforniaKill switch software protects a smartphone by allowing the owner to remotely render it inoperable. For instance, the owner of a smartphone can remotely apply a passcode before it can be unlocked or restored to factory settings. Aside from screen locking, other remote abilities include wiping data and preventing unauthorized resets. In addition, the user can reverse data wipes and restore phone operability. According to the bill, “the technological solution, when enabled, [is] able to withstand a hard reset…and prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by an authorized user.”1

Is kill switch technology effective?

Stealing smartphones, as a relatively quick and easy crime to commit, has become a widespread problem in the United States (accounting for 30-40% of all robberies in the nation in 2012). Reports say that one in ten people have had their smartphone stolen.2 In California, smartphone theft accounts for more than 50% of street robberies.3 By vastly reducing the resale value of smartphones, kills switch technology is expected to greatly curb theft. In 2013, 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in the United States. According to a study by Consumer Reports, the numbers have dropped to 2.1 million (or 32%) in 2014,4 largely as a result of kill switch technology.5

How is California’s law different from other similar legislation?

Senate Bill (SB) 962 was introduced in February 2014 and became law in August 2014. Minnesota passed a security kill switch measure in 2014 but the feature is not legally mandated to be factory default. In California, the bill states that a kill switch must be built into factory settings and clearly prompted upon initial set up. However, you can choose to opt out of the software. If retailers violate SB 962, they could be subject to a fine of up to $2,500.

What are the consequences of smartphone theft in California?

theft attorney CaliforniaSmartphone theft is typically considered petty theft because the value of a smartphone does not exceed $950. Under California Penal Code Section 490, petty theft is punished by imprisonment in county jail for up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.

If you take a smartphone from the person of another, you could be charged with robbery under California Penal Code Section 211. If you are convicted of robbery in California, you face up to five years in prison and a felony on your record.

Call the Theft Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are facing charges of theft or robbery in California, you should contact our experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich right away. Our skilled attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing theft charges. We are confident that we can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

We have offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville. Wherever you live or work, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you.

Call us at (888) 280-6839 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [http://www.forbes.com/sites/davelewis/2014/08/29/california-passes-smartphone-kill-switch-law/]
2. [http://www.cnet.com/news/smartphone-thief/]
3. [https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2013/12/20/california-looks-to-implement-kill-switch-as-smartphone-theft-deterrent/]
4. [http://www.cnet.com/news/smartphone-kill-switch-law-takes-effect-in-california/]
5. [https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2015/07/02/smartphone-anti-theft-kill-switch-law-goes-into-effect-in-california/]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.