Published by LawTechie - January 6, 2011 - LawTechie

In what seems to be a nationwide trend of leaving personal property bereft of privacy protections, the California’s highest court has now ruled that messages stored on a suspect’s cellular phone are not subject to the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections. People v. Diaz.

Here, the Court considered whether the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence where the arresting officer accessed defendant’s cell phone, which had been seized from defendant’s person, and found a coded text message on which the sheriff’s office based its indictment:

The relevant high court decisions do not support the view that whether police must get a warrant before searching an item they have properly seized from an arrestee’s person incident to a lawful custodial arrest depends on the item’s character, including its capacity for storing personal information . . . . Nothing in these decisions even hints that whether a warrant is necessary for a search of an item properly seized from an arrestee’s person incident to a lawful custodial arrest depends in any way on the character of the seized item.

Thus the court held that cellular phones found in an arrestee’s possession are subject to the same warrantless search exception as the rest of the arrestee’s personal belongings.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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