CA Supreme Court: No warrant needed to search cell phone

This disturbs me.  One’s expectation of privacy has been shattered in California. The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can search the cell phone of a person who’s been arrested — including text messages — without obtaining a warrant, and use that data as evidence.

This ruling opens up the flood gates of abuse by law enforcement, such as unfettered warrantless searches of e-mails, documents and contacts your IPhone or Blackberry.  Not to mention, that tablet and laptop computer you’re toting around.

The ruling involves the 2007 arrest of Gregory Diaz, who purchased drugs from a police informant. Investigators later looked through Diaz’s phone and found text messages that implicated him in a drug deal.  Diaz appealed his conviction, saying the evidence was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The court disagreed, comparing Diaz cell phone to personal effects like clothing, which can be searched by arresting officers.

“The cell phone was an item (of personal property) on (Diaz’s) person at the time of his arrest and during the administrative processing at the police station,” the justices wrote. “Because the cell phone was immediately associated with defendant’s person, (police were) entitled to inspect its contents without a warrant.”

What a bunch of junk. When are the courts going to stand up for the 4th Amendment instead of chipping away at it?  Generally, the 4th Amendment protects one from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant.  The CA Supremes here didn’t even carve out an exception to the warrant requirement, such as exigency or a crime in progress.  So, where does that leave us?  That makes this ruling the RULE, not the exception.

What’s the moral here?  Don’t have your cell phone in your pocket when you’re arrested.  Stick it in the trunk along with your gym bag; that seems to be the only place where the 4th Amendment maintains a little dignity.

Read the opinion here!

MSNBC Link

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