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Cell phones search incidental to arrest

The police must have a valid law enforcement purpose for the search. The same applies for an investigation — if an investigation will not be harmed by waiting to search your phone, the police should wait for a warrant. The Supreme Court essentially decided that this is not the case.

In reference to password protection on a cell phone, the Court stated that it would not give the password factor very much weight. What if the police have permission to search my car or house, or coat, etc. To be safe, if you are giving the police permission to search your car, etc. This decision places some limits on the right of police to search your cell phone during an arrest.

- The Washington Post

Before this decision there were no clear limits. This judgment grants police new abilities to search incident to arrest. If the police were to abuse their powers, they could conduct a search incident to arrest first and then work out a reason why they did the search later. This is a new and expanding area of law and is sure to depend largely on the particular facts of a case. If you have had your cell phone searched during an arrest, our lawyers can assess your case, provide informed opinions, discuss your options, and give you the representation you deserve. Tags: cell phone privacy , criminal law , search incidental to arrest , searches , unreasonable search and seizure.

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Park et al.

Several individuals, including Park showed up at the location of the warrant. These subjects were detained while the warrant was executed and arrested after the police found significant amounts of marijuana growing at the location. When the subjects were brought to the station there cellular telephones were seized. After one to one and a half hours the phones were searched. During a search of each phone, evidence was found in the address book which implicated the subjects in the illicit operation.

The government sought to use this information in the prosecution of these subjects while the defense sought to suppress the evidence from the phones. Finley, F. The court in this case concluded that the investigators should have obtained a warrant before searching the contents of the phone back at the station.


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The court left open whether the officers could have searched the phone at the time of the arrest. Some other courts have not agreed with this Federal trial court.

Brown was to meet the source, Amy Stratton, at a truck stop and deliver methamphetamine. Amy Stratton approached the truck and made her purchase. The truck was stopped a distance away from the truck stop. Brown and Finley were arrested.

The four conditions for police to search your cellphone without a warrant

The information from the phone was used to prosecute Finley for trafficking. In reviewing the search of the cellular telephone, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit used a search incident to arrest analysis. Their conclusions, based on similar facts, were opposite the trial court in the Parks case summarized above. Robinson, U. The search of a cellular telephone without a warrant may also be justified by exigent circumstances. It should be noted that this type of search would be based on probable cause to believe the phone contained evidence that may be lost if not immediately retrieved.

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Wyoming Lawyer - June 2012

In analyzing the search of the phones the court concluded that exigent circumstances supported a search without a warrant. As counsel noted, there is no specific law in the Fourth Circuit on the search of cell phones which are lawfully seized. Hunter, U. On a cell phone, the telephone numbers stored in the memory can be erased as a result of incoming phone calls and the deletion of text messages could be as soon as midnight the next day.

Detective Connors stated, under oath, that his previous experience is that once the cell phone powers down evidence can be lost.

Two recent cases prove the viability of the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.

The Razr cell phone has an option called message clean-up that wipes away text messages between one and 99 days. If the one-day message clean up is chosen, any messages stored on the Razr cell phone will be deleted at midnight on the following day it is received. Accordingly, this Court finds that exigent circumstances existed and the text messages retrieved from the Razr cell phones are admissible. A case from the Federal District Court in Georgia upheld the warrantless search of cellular phone incident to a valid arrest and also noted the exigency in conducting the search.

As Agent Murphy testified, cell phones provide vital links in drug conspiracies and corroborating evidence of the surveillance conducted during the transaction.


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Ortiz, 84 F. The court analogized the pager search to the search of containers found on or near the arrestee as part of a search incident to arrest.