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More Courts Allowing Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones

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This could be dangerous...

In California, it is legal for police to search an arrestee's cell phone without a warrant -- ever since a January decision by the California Supreme Court.

The 4th Amendment states that no search and seizure can be conducted by the government without a warrant.  However, courts have carved out exceptions to the warrant requirement for over two-hundred years.  This seems like a new one.

But that's California, you may say.  Think again.

In Florida, an appellate court decision upheld a warrantless search of a cell phone, defining the phone as a kind of "container." This case may be considered by the Florida Supreme Court.

A Georgia appellate court decision upheld a warrantless search of a cell phone found in an arrestee's car, not on her person.

The Ohio Supreme Court has barred warrantless cell phone searches.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) use data extraction devices to pull data off arrestee's smartphones. This is done only with a warrant, according to a state police press release.

These searches seem to be pertaining to "arrestees."  That is, people who have already been placed under arrest.  In Florida, police still need a search warrant to obtain cell phone records prior to an arrest.

But if you are already under arrest, it seems as though the courts are now saying that your cell phone can be searched much the way a container in your vehicle can be searched in order to "inventory" the items in an impounded vehicle.

In this electronic age, information is readily available to all, including law enforcement.  Cell phones, and especially smartphones, store lots of personal data. Phone numbers, text messages, photos.  

One of the primary responsibilities of a criminal defense attorney is to protect the rights of the accused.

If you or someone you love is under investigation, has been served with a search warrant, or believes that their rights may have been violated during a police search, call me.