Cell Phone Similar to a Pack of Cigarette's? So Say California Supremes: Guess What? Our Fourth Amendment May Go Up in Smoke!

In January, the California Supreme Court ruled that police can search the contents of a cell phone from a person who has been arrested, without a warrant. The court held that police looking at the contents of a cell phone, was akin to looking inside of a pack of cigarettes. I have no doubt the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the review of this case, and think that ultimately the decision of the California Supremes will be reversed. Why am I so confident you ask? It is not that I have confidence in our national Supreme judiciary, it is just that the California opinion is so flawed and illogical, that no even minded jurist, would let this opinion stand. Further, all that is needed to overturn the decision is five justices. I feel confident that Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer would vote to overturn. All that is needed is one justice out of Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Roberts to vote against this horrible decision, and I believe at least one of them will do just that. Why do I feel that this decision of the California Supreme Court is so bad? And why do I think that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn this decision? Mainly, because the Dissent, written by Justice Werdegar, joined by Justice Moreno, is right on the money in its analysis. Before discussing the dissent, first the main opinion. The court used three cases, United States v. Robinson (1973) 414 U.S. 218, United States v. Edwards (1974) 415 U.S. 80, and United States v. Chadwick (1977) 433 U.S. 1, to resolve the issue of whether the search of Diaz's text message folder was valid as a search incident to a lawful arrest. Diaz argued that the search "was too remote in time" to qualify as a valid search incident to his arrest. Robinson, was the case involving the search of a cigarette pack and Edwards dealt with the search of the defendant's clothing after an arrest. The court distinguished those cases from Chadwick, where a footlocker was searched some 90 minutes after an arrest. The court reasoned that a cell phone on the person of the defendant, is akin to a cigarette pack and that of a personal search of clothing, that it (the cell phone) was personal property … immediately associated with [his] person. The dissent, however, rightly focused more on the device itself and its ability to hold large amounts of personal information, unlike a cigarette pack. Justice Werdegar wrote that the majority opinion would allow police, with no showing of exigency, to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that could be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee's person. Therefore, the court has sanctioned a highly intrusive and unjustified type of search which met neither the warrant requirement nor the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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