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
    ekc, 22 Jan 2008 @ 10:41am

    Headline grabber?

    Now the ability of the police to go through any container on a person during a routine traffic stop seems like something that is an important issue that people should know about, but singularly pointing to their ability to check people's iphone seems like it screams of trying to get attention by mentioning a currently hot popular product, not too much different from a headline saying that children might be able to view porn on an iphone. If the police can search an iphone then they could obviously search through any other cell phone they found on somebody. Now I will readily admit that the browsing ability and ease of using an iphone may make it easier for the police to do such a search on an iphone as opposed to, say a Moto RAZR, and that a person using an iphone may have a more extensive browser history, but they can still do essentially the same stuff. As has been noted before, the iphone didn't contain much new stuff, it just put together the old things in a more intuitive way. The headline just seems like a cheap scream for attention to me. Would the police also be able to search a Zune that they found on someone? Maybe he will address that issue when the Zune becomes a little more popular. I thought Techdirt was above giving play to stories such as that without putting them through some critical analysis first.

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