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Police Can Search Your Cell Phone

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Aldeth the Foppish Idiot, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I'm not too keen on this one - the Supreme Court in California has ruled that police can search your cell phone - including text messages - without obtaining a warrant, and use that data as evidence against you in court. So contacts, texts, and depending on what type of phone you're using, that would also include e-mails.

    They cannot look through my cell phone if it's in my home without a warrant, but if I'm outside they can? That doesn't make much sense.

    Story.
     
  2. Cap'n CJ

    Cap'n CJ Arrr! Veteran

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    Do they have to tell you they're doing it or have done it?
     
  3. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    As the article states, they can only do it if they suspect you of committing a crime. If you get pulled over for speeding, they cannot seach your cell phone. So you would clearly know they were doing it. The point is most type of information searches require a search warrant, but because you carry your cell phone on your person, it can (according to the court ruling) be searched.
     
  4. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    In addition to that, I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) that any evidence they pull off your cell phone must be discolsed to you before they present that evidence in court, so as to give you a chance to properly rebut the conclusions they draw from the evidence.
     
  5. Cap'n CJ

    Cap'n CJ Arrr! Veteran

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    Sorry, I was getting all futuristic and assuming they were searching it OTA rather than by actually taking it off you.
     
  6. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Seems ridiculous. They can't search a briefcase other than for weapons, but they can search your phone? They likened it to searching clothes or a cigarette case? If that's so, then they should only be able to look inside any crevices and not the data it contains.
     
  7. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I hate it when the police look inside crevices.
     
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    I can imagine how well the argument will go between the police and a suspect over the phone's password. Hopefully the Supreme Court will get involved as this seems to trample the fourth amendment (at least the way I consider it).
     
  9. Baronius

    Baronius Mental harmony dispels the darkness ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Police already can do a lot of things if they suspect there is a crime in progress (or has already happened), I guess in the USA too. I suppose the presented matter is an efficiency question: getting a warrant requires time, and the suspect could leave the state/country in the meantime, or commit the not-yet-committed crime etc. Moreover, if a warrant was needed, it would absolutely prevent the check from happening in spontaneous cases (because you just delete stuff from your phone in the meantime, for example). When they come to your home with a warrant, you can't just touch your things either (e.g. to destroy an evidence), and you must give them access immediately. I suppose this is a similar case: whenever they realize there may be something crime-related on your mobile phone, they immediately need access to it without risking the loss or damage of the evidence or information.

    I'm obviously not an expert in the matter, but aren't many of these laws (or regulations) in the USA are because of terrorism? I mean, it can be a tough job to identify and neutralize terrorist threats if the law guarantees too much freedom. I know I go a bit off-topic with this but I have to ask: how would you Americans decide if you needed to choose between restricted freedom and getting you (or your children) blown up in the subway station? OK this is stupid question, but my point is, how efficient the anti-terrorism can be without restricting the freedom of citizens? (Probably there was talk about this in AoDA, but I haven't really visited SP too much in the recent years. I certainly welcome topic links to thoughts in this matter.) And who knows how many laws are sometimes violated by the American anti-terrorist officers (whatever their exact positions are called in the various agencies) for the sake of preventing terrorist acts...?
     
  10. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    This isn't because of terrorism. This is because of classification. Because a cell phone is classified as the same kind of 'item on a person' as a jacket or a purse, it can be searched in the same way. I don't know what the limits of that normally are. If they find a notebook on your person, are they allowed to read it's contents without a warrent? Or, perhaps more appropriately, how do they treat laptops (though the article suggests this isn't necessarily stable either)? This is an issue that has been debated in more than a few courts already, but I think this is the first time they've sided with the search.

    Also, for the record, if I understand this correctly, they can only do this if they actually arrest you. Speeding ticket? No. Unofficial warning? No. A quick scare? No. Only actually putting you in cuffs and taking you in.

    All in all, I think it should depend on the purpose of the original search. Are police allowed to search your jacket because it may contain evidence, or because it may contain weapons they need to isolate? If the former, then this follows right along. If the latter, then it should be limited to a physical search, not an informational one.
     
  11. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    I keep a password on my phone, and it cannot be searched without entering that password. Am I obligated by this law to supply this password? I think I feel of case of memory lapse coming on.
     
  12. nior Gems: 24/31
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    Perhaps not but I'm sure they can justify a torture to make you divulge it. Okay, that was meant as a joke. Anybody wants to take that seriously, take it as your own opinion.
     
  13. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Well, given that you live in California, this has a chance (if you are detained on suspicion of committing a crime - rightly or wrongly) of affecting you directly. As you say, I don't think they can MAKE you give them the password.
     
  14. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    Oh, they CAN make you give it up, but using techniques like beating the living crap out of you tend to render the evidence gained inadmissible in court. I believe it would be much easier to just get a tech savvy hacker to get in with a court order. But if time is of the essence, they cops'll likely be out of luck. But if they have probable cause, they can make your life miserable in the extreme while they are waiting even without torture.

    That said, despite the cops being painted as corrupt loonie toons by certain segments of society, it has been my experience that the cops don't just select random people to harass because they are bored. If the cops are talking to you, then they probably (80% of the time) have a pretty good reason for doing it. This meme that cops are just as bad as the criminals they deal with is just not believeable to me.
     
  15. Gaear

    Gaear ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful

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    They might able to get your pass from your service provider too, much the same as they get info from ISPs and regular phone companies.

    By and large, the cops prefer being bored. For cops, boring is good.
     
  16. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    My service provider doesn't have my iPhone password. It's a local password setup on my phone, and while it probably wouldn't be that hard to crack (if the police even have budget to add phone hackers to their teams), I can set it to wipe my phone completely after a specified number of failed login attempts.

    I personally have nothing to hide, so I guess my reasoning is mostly just a bit of playing devil's advocate. I think this law might prove to be harder to enforce against anyone who is remotely tech savvy.
     
  17. Shoshino

    Shoshino Irritant Veteran

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    What this is about is a drug dealer being charged with drug dealing because of evidence retrieved from his phone, there is good reason to search a phone to obtain evidence in this situation, its not a quick or instant thing, the hone would be placed in the hands of the computer crimes department who would retrieve all information from the phone, they wouldnt need your password, this isnt a random search - messages, call logs and contacts are valuable leads when dealing with this kind of crime - in much the same way the police will search the computer of someone who has been arrested in connection with child pornography.

    the article quite clearly points out that a suspect has to have already been arrested before their phone is searched, not randomly stopping people, looking through their phones for anything they like and then arresting you if they find something.
     
  18. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Based on what you describe here Shoshino, I would have assumed that no new law would be required for this. If a phone is considered evidence, why would police hesitate to confiscate it more than they would a personal computer?

    Were cell phones considered "off limits" before this law? I don't think so. I guess the key difference is that a warrant is no longer required. But again, in the case you describe I can't imagine why obtaining the warrant would pose any roadblocks anyway. So it begs the question why such a new law is even needed.
     
  19. NOG (No Other Gods)

    NOG (No Other Gods) Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

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    This wasn't a law, it was a ruling, and before it the phones were apparently in a grey zone. Again, though, I wonder how a briefcase would be handled. From this, it looks like they would have every ability to search said briefcase, including all information contained within. Given that, I don't see what the big deal is.
     
  20. nior Gems: 24/31
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    Yup, I think they pick donuts when they're bored. :D
     
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