(not so) Sacred Texts

January 11, 2011

OMG! R U 4 Real? 

That furious tapping sound in the Golden State?  It might be the collective sounds of thousands of stored text messages meeting their fates courtesy of the delete button.

In a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that police can search an arrestee’s cell phone and its text messages without a warrant.

According to NPR:

The justices determined a Ventura County deputy had the right to conduct a warrantless search of the text messages of a man he had arrested on suspicion of participating in a drug deal… The state court ruled 5-2 that U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirms that police can search items found on defendants when they are arrested.

 The San Francisco Examiner provides some context:

Sheriff’s deputies seized Diaz’s cell phone along with six tabs of Ecstasy. One and one-half hours later, a detective, who did not have a search warrant, looked in the text message folder of the phone and discovered a coded message that referred to Ecstasy sales.

You can pull up State v. Diaz using the citation 2011 WL 6158.  (I found the case by running “co(high) & text-message” in California cases.) It is worth noting one cool, step-saving difference between using Westlaw or WestLawNext to retrieve this case.  When viewing the document on WestlawNext, you can click on the filings tab to access a transcript of the oral argument.  You would need to search the California Oral Argument Transcripts (CA-ORALARG) for the transcript. 

Also worth noting?  This is not the first time we’ve seen cases dealing with warrantless searches of cell phones.  In 2009, the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Smith (920 N.E. 2d 949) found the other way – ruling that warrantless cell phone searches violate 4th Amendment rights. 

I imagine we will be reading more about this when the Supreme Court gets around to reviewing it all. 

Until then?  B2W,TTYL.