The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Right call

 

OUR OPINION: Florida Supreme Court rules police need warrant to search cell phones

 
300 dpi Patrick Sedlar illustration of a smartphone leaving electronic footprints; can be used with stories about smartphone privacy. Detroit Free Press 2012<p>

krtnational national; krtworld world; krt; krtcampus campus; mctillustration; 01027000; ACE; ENT; internet; krtentertainment entertainment; 04000000; 04003006; 04003007; 04003009; 13022000; FIN; krtbusiness business; krtcomputersci computer science information technology it; krtintlbusiness; krtnamer north america; krttechnology technology; krttelecommunication telecommunication; krtusbusiness; SCI; TEL; telecommunication equipment; telecommunication service; u.s. us united states; wireless technology; cellphone cell phone; de contributed sedlar; footprint; security; smartphone smart phone; 2012; krt2012
300 dpi Patrick Sedlar illustration of a smartphone leaving electronic footprints; can be used with stories about smartphone privacy. Detroit Free Press 2012

krtnational national; krtworld world; krt; krtcampus campus; mctillustration; 01027000; ACE; ENT; internet; krtentertainment entertainment; 04000000; 04003006; 04003007; 04003009; 13022000; FIN; krtbusiness business; krtcomputersci computer science information technology it; krtintlbusiness; krtnamer north america; krttechnology technology; krttelecommunication telecommunication; krtusbusiness; SCI; TEL; telecommunication equipment; telecommunication service; u.s. us united states; wireless technology; cellphone cell phone; de contributed sedlar; footprint; security; smartphone smart phone; 2012; krt2012

MCT / MCT

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

In a world of shrinking privacy and ever more tenuous rights, where cameras are being used by cities to nab speeders on wheels, too, the Florida Supreme Court has raised the caution flag and added some common sense to what’s left of citizens’ privacy.

In the Thursday ruling, Florida’s highest court clarified that police don’t have the right to scroll through a person’s Smartphone without getting a search warrant first.

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, already had a bill that would have made it illegal for police to use cell phone information without a warrant. The court’s ruling takes care of the issue for now.

Civil libertarians point out that Florida needs to update its search laws to keep up with the techy times.

Police, for their part, fear that time will be lost by having to find a judge to sign a warrant and criminals will get away. Not necessarily.

As former Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told Herald reporter Julie Brown, the court’s ruling still allows officers making an arrest to take custody of the phone, which would prevent a suspect from deleting crucial evidence that can be obtained later with a warrant.

“It’s not that difficult to go that extra step and we’ve found out that in court you leave yourselves open to a challenge if you don’t do it,’’ said Mr. Lamberti. The Broward Sheriff’s Office has been obtaining warrants for such cell phone searches for the past year under a court order.

The 5-2 ruling makes clear that police do have a right to seize a phone during an arrest — an important tool for law enforcement until the case is resolved. Officers simply cannot scroll through the contents without the warrant, which is similar to what’s now required under the law for searches of home computers.

“Vast amounts of private, personal information can be stored and accessed in or through these small electronic devices, including not just phone numbers and call history, but also photos, videos, bank records, medical information, daily planners, and even correspondence between individuals through applications such as Facebook and Twitter,” wrote Justice Fred Lewis.

The ruling reverses an appeals court decision in a Jacksonville case involving the arrest of Cedric Smallwood, accused of robbing a convenience store in 2008. Had police first gotten a warrant they could have put into evidence photos on Smallwood’s phone of a gun and stacks of money.

The Florida Legislature needs to update the laws governing search warrants to balance lawful citizens’ right to privacy with the need to protect our communities from criminals.

Requiring a warrant to search cell phone information accomplishes both goals and upholds the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    From tragedy to farce

    OUR OPINION: Latest Guantánamo disclosures further discredit the justice process

  • Worth a thousand words

    The Miami Herald Editorial Board shares the viewpoints of cartoonists from across the country in this Saturday feature called “Worth a Thousand Words.”

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Legislative lunacy

    OUR OPINION: Lawmakers shouldn’t cut funds for front lines of mental healthcare

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category