On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that police have to obtain a search warrant before looking through the contents of a suspect's cell phone, unless their safety is at issue. It looks like this is the first time this issue has ever been addressed by any state high court and has never been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involves Antwaun Smith who answered his cell phone after he was called by a police informant posing as a drug buyer. After Smith was arrested the police seized his phone and looked through the call history and found the calls from the informant. Smith was subsequently charged with possession of drugs and selling drugs. The Court ruled that the police needed a warrant to search through the phone history on the cell phone and remanded the case back to the trial court for a trial without the illegally obtained call history on the cell phone.
From experience I have seen many cases in which police arrest a defendant and then look through the phone history and find a phone number that links the defendant to a crime. This case would suggest that any evidence obtained by the warrant less search of the cell phone history would be inadmissible. It will be interesting to see if this case has any lasting influence and is taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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