Warrantless Cell Phone Searches Ruled Legal in California

In a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court held that a warrantless earch of a suspect’s cell phone 90 minutes after arrest did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. The court relied on an opinion upholding the search of a defendant’s cigarette pack and reasoned that defendants lose their privacy rights for any items they’re carrying when taken into custody.

The U.S Supreme Court denied certiorari in an Ohio case involving a similar issue. In the 2009 decision,¬† the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was needed to search data on a defendant’s cell phone. The likelihood of the U.S Supreme Court to decide the issue is increased due to the split among jurisdictions. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously decided in favor of an employer’s right to conduct¬†a warrantless search of an employee’s cell phone if the search is motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and is not excessive in scope.

Sources: http://jurist.org/paperchase/2011/01/california-high-court-rules-no-warrant-needed-to-search-cell-phone-text-messages.php

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/04/BA5N1H3G12.DTL