Results tagged “California Supreme Court” from The Court Reporter

Cell Phones Are Fair Game for Police to Search After an Arrest

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Got incriminating texts or emails or data in your cell phone?

If you are arrested in California, police can search the contents of a phone. If you have incriminating stuff,  it can lead to an investigation and possibly, additional criminal charges.

In the 2011 ruling in the case of California vs. Nottoli, the California Supreme Court ruled that cell phones are fair game for police to search.

Basically, this is what the case is about:  on Dec. 6, 2009, Santa Cruz County Deputy Steven Ryan pulled over Reid Nottoli for speeding and then, Ryan suspected that the 25-year-old  Nottoli was under the influence of drugs.

Nottoli wasn't arrested for driving erratically or for driving under the influence.

But Nottoli's license was also expired, so the Sheriff decided to impound the vehicle.

Nottoli wanted to leave his car parked on the side of the road.  Ryan said no, and decided to conduct an "inventory" search before Ryan had it towed.

During a  search of Nottoli's vehicle, the deputy found a legal Glock 20 pistol and he also noticed Nottoli's Blackberry Curve and clicked it on.

 Voila, the cell phone's "wallpaper" was a photograph of a masked man holding two AR-15 assault rifles, according to the court case.

"The phone's screen showed a photograph of someone wearing a mask, a white smock, and camouflage baseball cap. The person was "wielding two rifles in akimbo fashion." The hat in the photograph was "remarkably similar" to the hat that Reid was wearing when stopped that night and the person in the photograph and Reid were both "larger in stature, more full body [sic]," according to the appeals court ruling.

Deputy Ryan believed the individual in the photograph holding the rifles was Nottoli, according to the court

Another deputy looked through the cell phone text messages, photographs and emails for about 10 minutes, and he found many photographs of different firearms.

"At the scene, Deputy Ryan was shown five text messages, two photographs of guns, and an e-mail. The text messages related to marijuana cultivation. There was an e-mail receipt from gunbroker.net for  'the purchase of incendiary projectiles for 50 BMG caliber.' Incendiary projectiles contain highly flammable material that may set an object on fire upon impact. They are illegal in California," the appeals court ruling states.

Ten days later, Ryan got a search warrant. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's SWAT team executed the warrant at Nottoli's house.

The SWAT team found a cache of weapons, marijuana-growing paraphernalia and $15,000 in cash.

On January 22, 2010, a five-count complaint was filed against Notolli in Santa Cruz County Superior Court for possession of marijuana for sale; cultivation of marijuana, possession of hydrocodone, possession of an assault weapon, possession of a deadly weapon.

Nottoli's lawyers argued in court that his client's 4th Amendment right had been violated and that all the evidence found by deputies was now tainted and inadmissible in court because of the way it was discovery.

In their opposing papers, the district attorney maintained that there was probable cause to arrest Nottoli for being under the influence:  Deputy Ryan lawfully searched the area of Notolli's car where  Notolli was sitting incident to arrest, the vehicle was lawfully inventoried and towed for safekeeping, and a lawful limited search was conducted.

The judge agreed with Nottoli and ordered that the evidence be suppressed at trial.

Citing             a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state appellate court overturned the judge's ruling on the grounds that the search of the cellphone was part of the inventory check needed to process an impounded car

The appellate court justices, however, left it up to the U.S. Supreme Court to impose greater restrictions on cell phone searches.

"It is up to the United States Supreme Court to impose any greater limits on officers' authority to search incident to arrest," the justices stated.

The Notolli case could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

FOOTNOTE:  There is an excellent article published this month on the website ProPublica titled "No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data."

The article is about how law enforcement  can snoop on a person's digital trails that are created every day such as emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a simple subpoena, usually the person won't even be notified if this search was done, according to the article.

For further information go to ProPublica: http://www.propublica.org/special/no-warrant-no-problem-how-the-government-can-still-get-your-digital-data

 

State Supreme Court Employee Lunch Ruling

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The California Supreme Court said today that employers are under no legal obligation to ensure that workers take a legally mandated lunch and rest breaks.

But they must give them an opportunity to do so.

The decision will have far-reaching impact on retail, hospitality and other business in the state, according to lawyers who followed this case and were at the state Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in November.

Basically, Attorney Dana Peterson, of the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP in San Francisco, said in an interview that the Supreme Court's decision allows employees to give workers the opportunity to take a 30-minute lunch breaks rather than ensuring that workers actually take them in order  to comply with state law.

Ms. Peterson said the lunch break opportunity must come no later than at the end of the fifth hour of work.

"You have to make it available," she said.

This means that a worker can't be asked to perform work or any other work-related task while during the 30-minute lunch opportunity, said Ms. Peterson.

The complaint was certified as a class-action complaint with 63,000 former and current employees. Originally, the lawsuit was filed by five employees who claimed the company illegally denied them meal breaks for every five hours worked, according to court documents.

Brinker officials have also argued that meal periods only be provided, allowing workers to pass on their breaks and continue working if they choose.

The case of Brinker Restaurant vs. Superior Court of San Diego is a wage and hour case that stems from a workplace-related dispute that landed in the courts nine years ago, according to court documents.

Restaurant workers of Brinker International, the parent company of Chili's and other restaurants, complained that they missed breaks in violation of California labor laws, according to the lawsuit.

A copy of the Supreme Court opinion can be viewed  at:  http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions.htm

 

 

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.