A ruling this month from an appellate court in Daytona Beach would allow police to search a suspect’s cell phone without first obtaining a warrant. The state argued that law enforcement should be allowed to look at the contents of the phone that they can access and should not need to get a warrant first, according to a report by First Coast News. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The ruling opens up a serious gray area in the law, one that is becoming more and more important as technology continues to advance. A federal court that covers the Jacksonville area has already ruled that a suspect does not have to give police their code or password to unlock their phone if they do not want to.
Phones are not just phones in today’s day and age. These phones often contain a person’s pictures and videos; social media accounts and contacts of family and friends. Many people use their phones as a second computer and if a police officer was able to just scroll through the phone, he or she could see all recent Internet searches and sites visited, which could even include financial information. Of course, all of this type of information is available to police – if they get a warrant first. A Jacksonville criminal warrant to search a person’s home or computer must be approved by the prosecutor’s office and then signed by a judge. If police can satisfy a judge there is probable cause to conduct the search, then the cops can look at whatever they want. Those safeguards are there for a reason: so police cannot go on massive fishing expeditions and just conduct searches willy nilly on anyone they choose. This decision from the state court would be a step in the wrong direction in terms of protecting people’s rights. A smartphone is no different from a computer these days and should be treated that way by the courts.
If you are contacted by the police conducting a criminal investigation in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, it is crucial that you know your rights. You have the right to remain silent and you have a right to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You also have the right to say no if the police ask to search your car, your home, your computer and, for now it seems, your cell phone. If police have a warrant, they can do what they want within the bounds of the warrant itself, but our experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has seen many searches where police have overstepped the scope of the search that was approved by the court. If you are being investigated for a crime, our Jacksonville criminal attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem can walk you through your rights and advise you how far police are allowed to go without a Duval County warrant. When police say “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” they aren’t messing around. The same goes for anything they find during a search of your car or even your cell phone.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Warrant Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.