The California Supreme Court has ruled that police have the right to search the cell phone of anyone taken into custody when placed under arrest in the state.
Citing current U.S. law, the Court noted:
“This loss of privacy allows police not only to seize anything of importance they find on the arrestee’s body… but also to open and examine what they find.”
The ruling was approved with a 5-2 vote, with the dissenting justices stating that the law shouldn’t be extended to cover cell phones because of the extensive amount of personal and business information that could be considered sensitive.
The ruling does not elaborate on how far the searches could reach in scope or if the arrested party would be forced to divulge any passwords or keys in order to facilitate such a search.
In a similar case in the Ohio Supreme Court in 2009, the judge presiding over the case reached the opposite conclusion and said police had violated the rights of a man whose cell phone was searched during a drug arrest, citing the Fourth Amendment as applicable to cellphones, which touche off the ruling in that state.
The U.S. Supreme Court could now address the issue, as different states have come to different conclusions regarding unlawful search and seizure and the application to cellphones.