The U.S. Supreme is reviewing privacy interest in the context of cell phones, after spending time previously reviewing cases involving computers and GPS systems. Generally, things can be searched incident to an arrest but the question is if you can’t search, can you seize?
Retired Superior Court Judge, Eugene Hyman, of Santa Clara, California, says the answer is yes and then the officer can apply for a search warrant to see if there’s probable cause to believe the cell phone is evidence of a crime. If the magistrate believes so, then the search warrant is issued and the police can search it.
Nowadays, cell phones are mini computers and if a police officer needed a search warrant to search a computer taken from a home, the why wouldn’t they need a search warrant if it’s taken from your car, Hyman asks.
The California Supreme Court held that since it’s incident to an arrest, especially in the context of a vehicle, then that is enough to allow officers to search cell phones without the necessity of obtaining a search warrant, according to Hyman.
A vehicle is different from a home in that a vehicle is mobile and the concern is that things can disappear or get damaged, explains Hyman, who further adds that the general rule, historically, for warrant-less searches is there’s a great deal more leeway with vehicles.
Hyman believes the case is very important because it’s going to test the limits on what “historically, has been open season.” In this case, they will decide if a cell phone truly is so personal to require additional protections or whether the general historical rules apply, he explains.
Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows. For more information, visit www.judgehyman.com. He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.