Mixed Decisions Concerning Police Searches Of Your Mobile Phone On Arrest

from the legal-or-not? dept

A year ago, we had a lively discussion around here concerning the legal question of whether or not police could search your mobile phone if you are stopped for a traffic violation. It seems that the question is far from settled. Declan McCullagh details two separate lawsuits in which judges came to opposite conclusions about the rights of police to search mobile phones or other devices on persons being arrested. It's clearly allowed to search through physical belongings -- but when it comes down to digital belongings, it's not at all clear. It comes down to the same issue being debated concerning laptop searches at the border. Traditional law concerning such searches assumes that what you have on you is stuff you purposely chose to bring on that trip. However, in a digital age, where your devices "keep everything" the opposite is true. You automatically bring everything and only exclude that which you purposely choose to leave out. Thus, the old laws don't really make much sense and could lead to some dangerous and highly questionable scenarios. Hopefully, the courts will recognize this before too long.
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Filed Under: mobile phones, searches, warrants


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  1. identicon
    Ken, 13 Jan 2009 @ 5:54pm

    No Way

    I'm no lawyer, but there are some errors in this article.

    The police do not have the right to search your car on a traffic stop, without probable cause or your consent. They can't pull you over for a tail light, then proceed to strip search your car looking for anything illegal. Last I checked, we live in the United States, not Germany 1942.

    On a traffic stop, you are not under arrest, nor are you free to leave. I forget the legal term, but never the less, since you aren't under arrest you are under no obligation to say, or show anything.

    I think there's a few lawyers out there that would just love a civil rights violation case, if they grabbed your cell phone and started perusing through your accounts, time planner, contacts, etc.

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