California Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Cell Searches Legal

January 11, 2011
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Oh crap, better set your phone's texts to auto-destruct if you're living in the good ol' CA and plan on dealing drugs or whatnot. I don't know what illegalities you'd be texting in the first place, as it seems to me to be completely idiotic to write down, photograph, or otherwise record the things you're doing you know could get you in trouble, but check out this new law: A 5-2 decision in People versus Gregory Diaz released just yesterday says that a case involving the arrest of a drug dealer way back in 2007 stands. This case is important because it was an appeal by the dealer, Diaz, saying his arrest should have been thrown out because the police searched his cell phone's text messages without a warrant. California court says that's alright now.

These cops were well-versed in drug language, if you'd like to know, since the actual text that got this fellow in trouble read like this: "6 4 80" which the officer interpreted to mean that a buyer wanted to purchase six tabs of ecstasy for $80 USD. When the officer confronted Diaz with this text, he admitted to participating in the drug sale. What?! Doesn't that seem wacky to you?

But that's not the point. The point of this whole story is that Justice Ming Chin wrote in the majority opinion that the contents of a cell phone "are like the contents of clothing or a cigarette pack found on a suspect's person." The US Supreme Court has previously found that those types of items do not require a warrant to search under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The dissenting opinion, which I'm inclined to agree with a bit more, Associate Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar writes that the cell phone is different from those listed items simply because of the large amount of totally personal information that can fit inside - "Never before has it been possible to carry so much personal or business information in one's pocket or purse," Werdegar wrote.

You can check out the full PDF of the case [here].

[Via YahooPC]


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