California Court Rules Police Permitted to Read Texts on Cell Phones without a Warrant

On Monday, January 3, the California Supreme Court ruled that police searches of cell phones without a warrant are allowed under standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, reports

The court was ruling on a case from Ventura County that involved a man who had been arrested and convicted on drug charges. When the man was arrested, police confiscated six tablets of ecstasy and his cell phone. A detective who did not have a search warrant discovered text messages on the man’s phone that talked about selling the drugs. The man admitted he participated in the drug deal, and also pleaded guilty to transporting a controlled substance. He was sentenced to probation. However, he appealed the use of his cell phone’s text messages as evidence on the basis that the detective did not have a search warrant.

Previously, U.S. Supreme Court rulings have permitted warrantless searches of a person’s personal property that are “immediately associated” with them when they are arrested, such as cigarette packages or clothing. In this case, the California Supreme Court found that law enforcement officers are able to search cell phones within 90 minutes following a person’s arrest under the Fourth Amendment, and upheld the man’s drug conviction by a 5-2 vote. Justice Ming Chin stated he believed the man’s cell phone was similar to clothing; therefore it was able to be searched.

The ruling by the California Supreme Court raises many privacy issues. With mobile technology getting more and more advanced, the average cell phone now has videos, photos, and email, as well as text messages, which an investigator by law is now able to have access to. Regardless of a situation surrounding an arrest, it is a lot of information for law enforcement officials to seize without valid, legal justification.

If you are facing drug charges in Southern California, contact Sitkoff & Hanrahan. Our California drug crime defense lawyers have many years of experience, and understand the steps law enforcement officials must take during an arrest. We will work hard to defend your rights and may be able to get the charges being held against you reduced or dismissed. Call 1-866-430-8383 today for a free and confidential consultation.

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