Texas Law Now Requires Search Warrant for Search of Cell Phone

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that a person retains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the contents of his cell phone when the phone is being temporarily stored in a police property room. The defendant in this case, Anthony Grannville, was a high school student who was arrested for the class c offense of causing a disturbance on the school bus. His cell phone taken from him when he was booked into jail and placed into the property room. A school resource officer had heard the defendant had taken a photo of another student urinating and he went to the property room and retrieved the phone. The officer turned the phone on, searched the contents and located the photo. The officer conducted this search with out obtaining a search warrant. The officer later charged the defendant with Improper Photography.

The trial judge granted the defendants motion to suppress and the state appealed that ruling. The state argued that the cell phone should be viewed in the same way a prisoners clothing stored in a property room. The police have been allowed to search clothing and use any evidence found in or on them against a defendant. The court in this case saw a major difference. Cell phones are used to store large amounts of private data. The defendant certainly had an expectation of privacy and the police could not search the contents of the cell phone with out obtaining a search warrant.

Cell phones and their contents have become critical pieces of evidence in criminal investigations. There is often very incriminating information found in the contents of cell phones. Texas criminal attorney’s should always make the proper objections before any date retrieved from a cell phone is admitted into evidence. Many times the police jump the phone and search a phone with out proper authority. A suppression of key evidence could cause a dismissal of a criminal case or seriously weaken the prosecutors evidence.

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