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ISPLA INSIGHT- LE Needs No Warrant for Phone Number

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  • Peter Psarouthakis
    Permission Granted to Repost: 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals out of Chicagohas ruled that police may search a cell phone for its number without obtaining a
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 8, 2012
      Permission Granted to Repost:

      7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals out of Chicagohas ruled that police may
      search a cell phone for its number without obtaining a warrant. The phone
      number on the cell phone, which is effectively a computer, was seized from
      the defendant at the time of arrest in a narcotics bust. It was used to
      subpoena the owner's call history, revealing conversations with
      co-conspirators. Judge Richard Posner, writing for the three-judge panel
      hearing arguments in this case on January 25 and which was decided February
      29, compared a cell phone not only to a computer, but to a pocket diary. He
      wrote: "If police are entitled to open a pocket diary to copy the owner's
      address, they should be entitled to turn on a cellphone to learn its
      number." Furthermore: "If allowed to leaf through a pocket address book, as
      they are . , they should be entitled to read the address book in a
      cellphone. If forbidden to peruse love letters recognized as such found
      wedged between the pages of the address book, they should be forbidden to
      read love letters in the files of a cellphone."

      Citing cases going back to the 1981 decision in New York v. Belson and the
      "Robinson Rule" it would be wise for professional investigators to take time
      to read Judge Posner's 15-page decision. Many factors were considered, such
      as whether inspecting a cellphone is greater than the searching of a
      "container" or if such might actually be a "stun Gun."

      Although the actual make and model of the cell phone was never identified
      the decision noted "that an iPhone application called an iCam allows one to
      access a home computer's webcam, thus allowing one to survey inside a home
      while a thousand miles away. Thus at the touch of a button a cell phone
      search becomes a house search, and not a search of a 'container' in any
      normal sense of that word, though a house contains data."

      Judge Posner's decision ends: "But these are questions for another day,
      since police did not search the content's of the defendant's cell phone, but
      were content to obtain the cell phone's phone number. - Affirmed"

      Expect this Fourth Amendment issue to eventually be decided by the U.S.
      Supreme Court. It will have ramifications as controversial as the recent GPS
      tracking case of U.S. v. Jones.

      The decision in USA v. Flores-Lopez is available at:

      Bruce Hulme, ISPLA Director of Government Affairs

      SSHWFAZhMMWxJXdCAwPclWfFT9JPb0CDglI0%3d> www.ISPLA.org

      Resource to Investigative and Security Professionals, the Government, and
      the Media

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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