Did you know that your cell phone is protected by the Florida Supreme Court?
I recently read an interesting case, Cedric Tyrone Smallwood v. State of Florida, where the Florida Supreme Court voted on whether police are allowed to search cell phones. The court ruled that law enforcement officers may not seize a defendant’s cell phone without a search warrant.
In Cedric Tyrone Smallwood v. State of Florida, police took possession of Smallwood’s phone after his arrest for robbing a store. Browsing the phone, the police discovered pictures of money, guns, and the defendent’s fiancée holding a bundle of money. The pictures were taken several days after the robbery. Were the police legally allowed to search the cell phone? The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unnecessary searches, applies to pictures on cell phones.
The Florida Supreme Court decided that cell phones are different from other items that are seized during arrests. The court claimed that cell phones contain the most “private and personal details of an arrestee’s life.” Just because a cell phone condenses the details of someone’s life onto a small electronic device, doesn’t mean those devices shouldn’t be protected. The Florida Supreme Court even compared a cell phone to a small version of a person’s home—a cell phone, like a home, could contain private things such as bank and medical records.
The ruling that a search warrant must be obtained before police are allowed to search a person’s cell phone after arrest is very important. In our technology-driven society, we all walk around with tons of personal information in our pockets, including pictures, personal emails, and financial information. This ruling by the Florida Supreme Court works to protect this private information. If the government really needs this information, and has probable cause to believe it relates to a crime, it makes sense that they should only be allowed to access it with a warrant signed by a judge. Allowing a police officer free access to this information violates our 4th Amendment rights.
Here is a quick video on what to do if your rights have been violated: