Cell phones can be searched without a warrant

January 4, 2011
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Police can search your cell phone without a warrant

California’s Supreme Court has ruled in, People v Gregory Diaz, that police do not need a search warrant to read text messages on a suspect’s cell phone.  A search warrant is a court order issued by a judge that authorizes police officers to search a person or place for evidence of a crime.  In 2007, Gregory Diaz was arrested for selling drugs.  The police found drugs in his possession, but also looked on his cell phone and found a text message about buying and selling drugs.  Searches of someone’s person, house, or papers without a warrant are allowed at the time of arrest in that there is always a chance the suspect could try to conceal or destroy evidence.  Mr. Diaz however argued that this was an unlawful search and seizure.  The decision was 5-2 in favor of warrantless searches of cell phones.  The judgment written by Justice Ming Chin reads,” when carried in the clothing, a mobile phone is personal property that is immediately associated with the person of the arrestee,” and as such,”police may, without obtaining a warrant, inspect a mobile phone carried by a suspect at the time of arrest, by viewing or listening to its electronically stored data, including text messages, even when a substantial time has elapsed since the arrest.”  Justice Kathyrn Mickle Werdegar disagreed, saying it allowed the police,” 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 because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person.”

What do you think?  Should police be able to look through all the contents of a cell phone without a search warrant?

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