Cell phone search needs no warrant, say Cal Supremes
Plods can slurp your mobe like they rifle your cigs
California's high court said police don't need a warrant to read text messages stored on the cell phones of people taken into custody.
Monday's 5-2 decision (PDF) relied on separate decisions from the 1970s by the US Supreme Court that upheld warrantless searches of cigarette packs and clothing taken from suspects after they were arrested.
Cell phones are no different, California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin wrote for the majority in Monday's decision. They went on to uphold an appeals court decision that the retrieval of an incriminating text message from a drug suspect's handset didn't violate the US Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The ruling came in the case of Gregory Diaz, who was arrested in 2007 for conspiracy to sell Ecstasy. Officers who confiscated his phone found a message that read “6 4 $80,” which was interpreted to mean the defendant would sell six pills for $80.
In a dissenting opinion, two associate justices said cell phones should be treated differently than other personal effects confiscated from a suspect because they're capable of storing so much more information.
“A contemporary smartphone can hold hundreds or thousands of messages, photographs, videos, maps, contacts, financial records, memoranda and other documents, as well as records of the user‟s telephone calls and Web browsing,” Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote in the dissent. “Never before has it been possible to carry so much personal or business information in one's pocket or purse. The potential impairment to privacy if arrestees' mobile phones and handheld computers are treated like clothing or cigarette packages, fully searchable without probable cause or a warrant, is correspondingly great.”
The warrantless seizure of cell phones has already been heard by other courts with varying outcomes, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. The split may prompt the US Supreme Court to take up the issue. ®
Wow, this is some bad case law right here.
The Fourth amendment clearly holds here. If the police need a warrant to *tap* your phone line, then it stands to reason that the exact same information contained in the exact same device would equally require a warrant, or probable cause, to be searched.
Further, a modern cell phone quite literally contains one's "papers and effects" just as much as does a computer or filing cabinet. This is especially true here because the defendant was *in custody* having been found with illegal drugs on his person. A warrant would have been extremely easy to obtain with that kind of supporting evidence.
The left? Get some perspective
The U.S. has two major political parties; the far right one, and the really far right one.
A smartphone is capable of accessing email which the sixth circuit found to be protected by the 4th Amendment. I can see that mobile encryption technology might be a good stock investment.