In a landmark decision protecting individual privacy rights of all Americans, last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that police now need a warrant to search the cell phones, iphones, or smartphones of people who they arrest or detain without a warrant. Finally! Too often we have seen police in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, and Westport assume they have carte blanche to pillage and scour through a suspect’s cell phone without probable cause or permission from the phone’s owner.
So what does this mean for Greenwich and Stamford Connecticut citizens? A lot. Here’s why…
That’s the direct quote from United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in our high court’s unanimous decision. And the “cost of privacy” in this cell phone scenario is that the law will now require Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and Westport police, as well as all Connecticut and nationwide police, to jump through various legal and procedural hurdles before they can invade your Connecticut privacy rights. The Stamford criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have been closely following law enforcement’s response to this ruling. And as expected, we are suddenly reading newspaper articles detailing important meetings taking place between prosecutors and police. These prosecutors are now educating local police about this new search and seizure law and the restrictions that are now in effect limiting the conduct of police with respect to the cell phones and iphones of arrestees.
As many of the top Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyers will tell you, prior to this Supreme Court decision, Connecticut police have gratuitously exercised their previously unfettered right to surf through everything on a suspect’s or arrestee’s cell phone. Not any longer. This was particularly prevalent in drug investigations and police stops involving possible 21a-277 and 21a-278 drug sales. Cell phones would be seized as part of a search incident to an arrest and police would quickly see text messages pop up on an iPhone that confirmed names, phone numbers, dates, times and quantities relating to potential drug sales. Police would then quickly question the suspect about these people, phone numbers and text messages during the actual arrest and glean incriminating information from the suspect which they could use—as evidence—in related investigations, as well as in related search warrant and arrest warrant applications. Of course all of this goes down well before the suspect has ample time to consult with a lawyer about his or her rights. Couple that with an aggressive and inquisitive investigating Stamford or Greenwich Narcotics detective or police officer, and a suspect is almost certain to provide information to Connecticut police out of fear of the consequences of not doing so.
A search warrant is an investigative tool prepared by the police department, requesting authorization and approval from a judge to search and seize evidence from a specific item, residence, or business for what Stamford police believe will contain evidence of a crime. The search warrant has to be limited and reasonable in time, scope and subject matter. The search warrant application also has to define what has been described as “probable cause” to justify this intrusion into your privacy. A copy of any Greenwich or Stamford search warrant is required to be shown to the property owner prior to it being served and executed. If you try to interfere with or prevent the Stamford and Greenwich police from executing a search warrant, then you can be arrested for a variety of felony or misdemeanor crimes in Connecticut such as Interference with a Police investigation, Disorderly Conduct, or Breach of Peace in the Second Degree.
So now that you are aware of your new cell phone privacy rights, don’t let the Greenwich or Stamford police violate them. Stamford police can only look at the information, emails, messages, postings, and contact information on your iphone if they have probable cause to do so, and have procured a search warrant. And be sure not to give them any additional evidence that could assist them with gathering facts and evidence that could lead to probable cause. Contact an experienced privacy rights and search warrant attorney at Mark Sherman law to discuss your Connecticut privacy rights. We offer free phone consultation on all criminal matters and will help you get up to speed on this groundbreaking Supreme Court decision. Call us today at (203) 358-4700.