a real desire to help and numerous privacy statutes that restrict their ability to disclose information, Benoit said.

According to Lingle, however, law enforcement is also to blame for carriers' restrictive policies. Too often, when a carrier releases information on the promise that police will return with the court order, subpoena or other documentation the law requires, the police don't comply in the end, he said.

This leaves the carrier open to liability claims.

"[The new law] would give them limited immunity for providing basic information when they know they're talking to a law enforcement or public safety agency, and it is a desperate situation where someone's going to get hurt or die," said Benoit.

Besides working on the problem through the California Legislature, Benoit is trying to stir national interest in the issue.

"We're talking with [U.S.] Senator [Dianne] Feinstein about a parallel federal piece of legislation," he said. "Some of her staff and my staff have been talking, so I hope we'll move forward on that."

Over the years, carriers' response to requests for location data has improved, Benoit said. "It used to be a couple of hours before you could get any information, and sometimes you were thwarted completely," he said. "Now they're down to about 10 minutes and written reports, some of them. I want to get to the point where it's even more expeditious than that."

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer