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Cellphones Privacy The Courts

Cell Phone Searches Require Warrant 161

schleprock63 writes "The Ohio state supreme court has decided that a cell phone found on a suspect cannot be searched without a warrant. The majority based this decision on a federal case that deemed a cell phone not to be a 'closed container,' and therefore not searchable without a warrant. The argument of the majority contended that a cell phone does not contain physical objects and therefore is not a container. One dissenting judge argued that a cell phone is a container that simply contains data. He argued that the other judges were 'needlessly theorizing' about the contents of a cell phone. He compared the data contained within an address book that would be searchable." The article notes that this was apparently the first time the question has come up before any state supreme court.
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Cell Phone Searches Require Warrant

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  • Re:What if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:41PM (#30448722) Homepage Journal
    but what if the suspect had a laptop or netbook on his person; wouldn't the police need a separate search warrant to search that specific machine? A cell phone is not different, is it?

    I think the Courts have been trying to differentiate far too much. If it's OK to search your physical papers, address books, and mail you might have, why should a computer, cell phone, or netbook be any different? It's just data in 1's and 0's instead of ink and paper.
  • Re:Not not? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by click2005 ( 921437 ) * on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:42PM (#30448728)

    Wouldn't that allow them to open almost anything in these times when 100ml of liquid or a nail file could be and sometimes are considered weapons?

  • Re:What if... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:58PM (#30448916)
    There aren't many cases where I think requiring the police to get a warrant is too large an imposition. If they have reason to believe there's information of use on that cell phone, they can go get a warrant and then search the phone.
  • by JerryLove ( 1158461 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @04:17PM (#30449132)

    but the pattern in rulings related to "Terry stops" seems to be the other way. Florida recently ruled that a search of a car someone just left was approprite "to ensure officer safety", though a search of a house was not.

    I'm trying to figure out how a knife in a car would pose a danger to a police officer when the owner is sitting in the back of a patrol car.

    Sadly: the tendancy for decades seems to be away from protection of the citizen's rights.

  • Re:Not not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KC7JHO ( 919247 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @05:12PM (#30449860) Homepage
    Ok, first off, I am a Police Officer in the state of Oklahoma (I know each state is different...) so with that being said, the search of a closed container during an arrest is for safety/inventory purposes.

    I have never even thought I had a right to examine the contents of the phone past the initial screen (no pushing buttons, etc) OR a flash drive with out a warrant. Even when I server a search warrant on a house to retrieve and search electronic storage devices I must always specify that I will be searching the contents of every object found including any phones, disk, computers, cameras, etc. If, during my warranted search I find evidence of the suspect using an online e-mail service (I.E. g-mail) I must again obtain a warrant for this service as well. This is to protect the peoples right to freedom of speach. If I can not convince the judge that the suspect was using the service to conduct illegal activity pertaining to my previous warrant then the Judge will not grant my warrant. In my opinion this is perfectly logical!

    If I am arresting some one for suspicion of dealing narcotics, I can justify a warrant on the phone to look for contacts, messages, etc. If I am arresting them for DUI, what reason could I have for needing to search the contents of the phone? If I am sworn to protect the public, I am just as sworn to protect the civil rights of the public! If I go to a neighboring city/state I would expect the same protection.
  • Re:Not not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KC7JHO ( 919247 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @05:29PM (#30450128) Homepage
    Hmm, My first thought would be... why in the world is this phone in the bag. This requires inspection. I would most definitely check the phone over carefully, thinking that the suspect must be using the bag to keep something on the phone ir in the phone (not data) from smelling/leaking out in a pocket. Otherwise if found in a pocket with out a bag, ya everyone caries a phone, drop in in the bag with everything else and give it back to them when they are released.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @06:51PM (#30451310) Journal
    Why do the police have the right to search an address book without a warrant? Doesn't that violate the 4th amendment?

    because the police have a lot of guns and they work for the government which has a military with even more guns.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato