Wednesday, February 9, 2011

California High Court Ruling Creates Possible Supreme Court Review

The California Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer can look through the cell phone of someone that has been lawfully placed under arrest.  A Ventura County deputy conducted a warrantless search of the text messages of a man he had arrested for participating in a drug deal.  In a 5 to 2 ruling the California Supreme Court ruled that the police can search through items found on individuals that are arrested.  The ruling has the effect of extending the loss of privacy upon arrest beyond a persons body to include their personal property.  Gregory Diaz was arrested in 2007.  The detective that arrested him took Diaz's phone out of his pocket when he was arrested.  About 90 minutes after he was arrested, a deputy searched through Diaz's text messages and discovered evidence that Diaz was involved in the drug deal.  Diaz eventually pleaded guilty to the drug charges and was sentenced to probation.  However, in 2007, a Federal District Court Judge ruled that police need to have a search warrant in order to search through the text messages on a cell phone and the Ohio Supreme Court also ruled that police need a search warrant to look through the text messages on a cell phone.  The split opinions may cause the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue and and issue a ruling.  We will keep an eye out on whether this case makes it to the Supreme Court.

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