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South Florida Appeals Court Rules Cell Phone Evidence Required a Warrant

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2016 | Criminal Defense, Criminal Defense |

In 2014, through a unanimous decision, The United States Supreme Court ruled that a search warrant must be obtained prior to engaging in the contents of a cellular phone. This decision helped start an update to outdated privacy rules, specific for technology, which the court said falls under the protection of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. One exception to this rule would be a major security threat. Recently, this ruling was cited in a South Florida appellate case in which a cell phone-that was unlocked by police-could be used as evidence.

Will Police be Able to Adjust to Cell Phone Privacy Laws?

The United States Supreme Court ruling altered the way police can conduct investigations. In relation to cell phone privacy, call logs can also only be pursued with a search warrant. There has been an ongoing advocacy for the privacy for people’s digital information being that there is a raft of information kept online.

More recently, in December 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in South Florida heard a case in which a cell phone that was unlocked by police was used as evidence in a criminal case. The appellate court judges sided with the circuit court in the decision to withhold the evidence of the cell phone in question. The phone was left in a vehicle after the police pulled the driver over for driving at night without headlights on and for speeding. Despite the phone being locked, the detectives were able to unlock the phone and linked a suspect to the crime. The agreement from the appeals court was written in an 11-page ruling and protected the suspect’s privacy rights.

Although there was acknowledgement of the cellular phone acting as physical evidence left in the vehicle, which was stolen, due to it being locked, the information contained in the phone still remained protected until a search warrant was received. One of the arguments from the court’s side is that nowadays, most people contain very private information in their smart-phones and their locations can even be pinpointed.

If you are facing a similar situation, we strongly suggest you discuss your situation with a criminal attorney as soon as possible as their experiences with the judicial systems at the local and federal levels can assist you in making the best decisions for your situation.


News 4 Jax | Florida court says police needed warrant. Retrieved December 12, 2016 from,

Washington Times | Supreme court bans warrantless cell phone searches. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from:

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