Generally, law enforcement officials must get a warrant before they conduct a search of someone’s residence or personal belongings, unless certain exceptions apply. Both state and federal courts have recently seen an increase in the number of cases concerning the search of an individual’s cell phone, tablet, or other electronic device.
In a recent Florida District Court of Appeal opinion, the Third District held that the search of a defendant’s cell phone was unauthorized by law. In Viervens Saint-Hilaire v. The State of Florida, the appeals court discussed recent laws regarding the search and seizure of cell phones during the lawful arrest of a criminal suspect.
In the underlying case, the defendant had been stopped by police for an alleged traffic violation. During the course of the stop, a police officer observed that the defendant possessed a number of suspicious credit cards in his wallet. The defendant was then arrested and subjected to a pat-down search. At that point, a police officer searched the digital contents of the defendant’s cell phone and discovered multiple names and social security numbers. After the defendant was charged with possession of identification information with the intent to defraud, he made a motion to suppress the evidence found on his cell phone.