Cops Can Search Your Cellphone Without Warrant, Cali Supreme Court Rules

Cops don’t need a warrant to go through your text messages when you’ve been arrested, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The case stemmed from a guy who bought drugs from a police informant where a subsequent search of his cellphone uncovered text messages linking him to the deal.

A Deputy Sheriff saw an Ecstasy deal go down involving a car driven by the defendant. He and his passengers were arrested and six pills were discovered. The defendant denied being a part of the deal, but the cops looked through his cellphone text message folder and found one that said “6 4 80,” which the cops took to mean “six pills of E for $80.” They confronted the defendant with the messages and he confessed.

The court ruled that your “loss of privacy” when you get arrested also extends to your personal items. The majority ruled that looking through the cellphone was like taking a pack of cigarettes when searching a suspects’ clothing and using the heroin capsules found inside as evidence.

But it’s not just text messages. The ruling extends to any data on the phone, including voicemail messages, photos, address book, browsing history, etc. etc.

The dissenting opinion took a different view. “The majority’s holding … (grants) police carte blanche, with no showing of exigency, to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person,” wrote Justice Kathryn Werdegar. “The majority thus sanctions a highly intrusive and unjustified type of search, one meeting neither the warrant requirement nor the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The defense plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ruling lets California police search your phone without a warrant [CNN]
Court: No warrant needed to search cell phone [Red Tape Chronicles] (Thanks to Michael!)

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