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Cell Phones & Warrants?

While making a lawful arrest, can a police officer peruse through the arrestee's cell phone?  The California Supreme Court yesterday answered yes, in light of U.S. Supreme Court decisions outlining the scope of a valid search incident to an arrest:

As the People explain, the cell phone "was an item [of personal property] on [defendant's] person at the time of his arrest and during the administrative processing at the police station." . . . Because the cell phone was immediately associated with defendant's person, [the arresting officer] was "entitled to inspect" its contents without a warrant . . . at the sheriff's station 90 minutes after defendant's arrest, whether or not an exigency existed.

(Internal citations and footnotes omitted.)  The court rejected the notion that the warrant requirement "depends on the item's character, including its capacity for storing personal information."

Taking a different approach, the Ohio Supreme Court recently arrived at the opposite conclusion.

In part, whether the warrantless search of a cell phone passes constitutional muster depends upon how a cell phone is characterized . . . . 
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[Cell phones'] ability to store large amounts of private data gives their users a reasonable and justifiable expectation of a higher level of privacy in the information they contain. . . .  Once the cell phone is in police custody, the state has satisfied its immediate interest in collecting and preserving evidence and can take preventive steps to ensure that the data found on the phone are neither lost nor erased.  But because a person has a high expectation of privacy in a cell phone's content, police must then obtain a warrant before intruding into the phone's contents.

The AP has this story.

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