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? Continue reading →