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
    Hudson Barton, 22 Jan 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Other Constitutional rights

    The article suggests that iphones, smart phones and similar devices that can not be customized to encrypt all or most of the "hard drive" should be used "at your own risk".

    It is not a reason however to be fearful. Encryption is available to all of us, and has already been declared an "arm" (weapon) that one might use for self-defense. Personally, I don't think I even want a portable device that can't be "armed".

    Note: While it is our 4th amendment right to not be subjected to unwarranted search and seizure, it is our 2nd Amendment right to be armed with encryption, and it is our 5th amendment right to not disclose the password. The wise citizen may well decide not squander any of his rights.

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