You’ve just committed a crime, but you dropped your smartphone while you were doing it. Now the police arrive to investigate the scene of the crime, and they find your phone. Are they allowed to use the phone to find you? Do they need a warrant to check your phone?
This situation was called into question in a recent case.
Using Your Phone to Find You
The California case involved a person who broke into a home. After the owner put up a fight, the intruder ran off, but he left his cellphone behind. A password was necessary to unlock the phone, so police dialed 911 using a feature where a phone’s security is bypassed if an emergency call needs to be made.
Emergency dispatchers gave police the phone number used to make the call, which allowed officers to contact the carrier, Verizon. The company wouldn’t release the name of who owned the phone until police obtained a search warrant.
Within a few hours, a warrant was issued. After obtaining the information about the suspect from Verizon, authorities went to his home and arrested him. During a search of his home, police found materials in the man’s home that connected him to a separate kidnapping case.
Does Using a Cellphone Violate the Owner’s Rights?
During the kidnapping case, the defendant’s lawyer argued that the evidence against his client should not be admissible as evidence. His argument was based on the fact that the evidence was discovered only because of the officer’s 911 call, which constituted an illegal search. Did the 911 call count as a warrantless search?
According to the defendant’s defense attorney, the defendant gave no consent for police to use his phone and there was no warrant issued at the time it was used by an officer. However, prosecutors argued that the Fourth Amendment didn’t apply to this case because the phone was abandoned property. The defendant was a suspect fleeing the scene of a crime that he committed and prosecutors claimed that “a fleeing subject has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the evidence he abandons.”1 They also argued that the police didn’t actually search the phone, but only used it to dial 911.
The court denied the defense’s attempt to suppress the evidence, essentially concluding that anything left at the scene of a crime can be used against you as long as the evidence is obtained in a legal way.2 According to the court, police officers used a legal method in this case and the use of the defendant’s phone did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights.
Do you agree with the court’s ruling? Do you believe the defendant’s rights were violated when police used his phone to call 911?
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, you should speak to an experienced criminal lawyer immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, we have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing criminal charges. Let us help you now.
With offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Torrance, Ventura, Victorville and West Covina, you can find a dedicated Wallin & Klarich attorney no matter where you are located
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1. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article84916032.html href=”#ref1″>↩