Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Warrantless cell phone searches spread to more states

cnn

(CNN) -- Think about all the data -- photos, videos, text messages, calendar items, apps, call log, voice mail, and e-mail -- on your cell phone right now. If you're arrested, could the police search your cell phone? And would they need a warrant?

That depends on which state you're in.

In California, it is legal for police to search an arrestee's cell phone without a warrant -- ever since a January decision by the California Supreme Court.

California civil rights advocates are pushing back. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is supporting California Assembly Bill SB 914, which would require police in that state to get a warrant before searching an arrestee's cell phone.

EFF also recently filed an amicus brief in the Oregon case of James Tyler Nix, a criminal suspect who was arrested and placed in a holding cell.

According to EFF, "Forty minutes after the arrest, without a warrant, an investigator fished through the suspect's cell phone looking for evidence related to his alleged crime. Law enforcement officials claim they didn't need a warrant because the search was 'incident to arrest' -- an exception to the warrant requirement intended to allow officers to perform a search for weapons or to prevent evidence from being destroyed in exigent circumstances."

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