Police Officers Can Search Your iPhone Following Arrest For A Traffic Violation

from the fourth-amendment dept

Adam Gershowitz writes "I am a criminal law professor from Houston, Texas and I have recently finished an article about the ability of police officers to search the contents of a person's iPhone at a traffic stop. In brief, under what is referred to as the "search incident to arrest doctrine," police can search through any container found on the body of a person who has been arrested. It does not matter that the arrest was for running a stop sign, or speeding, or some other seemingly minor traffic infraction. Regardless of the reason for the arrest, police can search through every container on the person's body, even if the police have no suspicion that there is anything illegal in it. A few courts have concluded that this doctrine permits police to search text messages found on cell phones. My article explores the circumstances under which police can now search not only text messages, but also the email, pictures, movies, calendar entries, and internet browsing history found on iPhones and similar devices -- even if the police have no suspicion that there is anything illegal on the iPhone. In short, the article explores ways in which the police can search through the thousands of pages of data on individuals' wireless technology even if there is no probable cause or other suspicion of illegal activity."

Filed Under: fourth amendment, iphone, police, privacy, traffic stop


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  1. identicon
    Shane C, 22 Jan 2008 @ 11:19am

    Automatic download

    I keep reiterating this every time I see a similar article. I wonder when "automatically downloading the contents of the device, so a third party technical consultant can review it" will become standard?

    If it becomes expected to have all of your personal belongings (physical and data) searched in certain situations then it's going to be expected that a officer "on the beat" can't do that personally. He could however carry a device with a common interface that would duplicate all the data for someone else to review.

    When that happens the big question will be "who has access to the data," and "what happens to it when they are done?"

    Being the capitalistic person I am, I can see a great opportunity for a new business. Now if I could just purge out those pesky morals...

    Shane

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