01/05/2011 // Greensboro, NC, USA // Personal Injury Lawyers News // Nicole Howley

Los Angeles, CA— Police officers do not need to obtain a warrant prior to searching a cell phone owned by someone who is under arrest, according to a California Supreme Court ruling made on Monday, January 3, 2011, as reported by Fox News.

The California Supreme Court decision came in conflict with other decisions, made by other states on the same issue, which has some speculating the U.S. Supreme Court will also weigh in on this issue.

In 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston ruled that police could not search the cell phones of drug defendants without a warrant first. In 2009, the Ohio Supreme Court also ruled police did not have that right.

Fox News reported, the state court ruled 5-2 that U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirms that police can search items found on defendants when they are arrested.

The California Supreme Court justices determined that Ventura County deputy had the right to conduct a warrantless search of the text messages on a cell phone owned by a man the officer had arrested on suspicion of participating in a drug deal.

The “loss of privacy upon arrest extends beyond the arrestee’s body to include personal property. Authorities can not only seize items but also can open and examine what they find,” the ruling said.

The California Supreme Court ruling resulted from a 2007 arrest of defendant Gregory Diaz. In the case, a detective took the phone from Diaz’s pocket when he was arrested and inspected it 90 minutes later without obtaining a warrant. Upon searching the phone, the detective found evidence that linked Diaz to a drug deal. Diaz pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to probation but appealed the search.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley

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