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