Some Courts Allow Evidence from Cell Phones Searched Incident to Arrest

Privacy advocates are expressing concern about some court rulings that are allowing police to search through cell phones for call lists and text messages during an arrest.

The rulings cite the doctrine of search incident to arrest that allows a search of “containers” on or near arrested suspects without probable cause, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). South Texas law professor Adam Gershowitz told the newspaper that a law needs to be passed to protect electronic gadgets from being searched during arrest under the doctrine.

Other privacy advocates are focusing on laptop border searches, the story says. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this spring that border officials don’t need reasonable suspicion to search electronic devices at the border.

In another twist on cell phone evidence, a Wisconsin appeals court allowed prosecutors to use incriminating photos found on the cell phone of a suspected drug dealer who had been stopped for speeding, the Associated Press reports. The suspect was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun after the photos showed him with weapons.

The court said the officer had probable cause to conduct the search after he answered the ringing phone and heard from a person who wanted to buy drugs.

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