In an update from a 2011 post where I mentioned that more and more courts were permitting warrantless searches of cell phones, Florida's Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, held that police must first obtain a search warrant before looking through a suspect's cell phone.
In the opinion forSmallwood v. State, the Florida Supreme Court reasoned that, “a warrant [is] required before the information, data, and content of the cell phone [can] be accessed and searched.”
Prior to this decision, cops searched cell phones "incident to arrest." However, text messages, recordings, or photographs depicting criminal activity could be used as evidence against the accused.
Now police will have to get a search warrant before accessing a person's phone.
This decision does not prevent police from impounding phones as evidence. They just cannot access the phone's content without a warrant.
Eric Matheny is a Broward criminal defense attorney and Miami-Dade criminal defense attorney assisting clients with felonies and misdemeanors in both counties.