The Florida Supreme Court recently reviewed the Jacksonville case of a man convicted of armed robbery after police discovered incriminating evidence of the crime on his cell phone. The man was charged with robbing a convenience store at gunpoint. After identifying the man as a suspect, police obtained an arrest warrant and took him into custody. The arresting officer took the man’s cell phone from him during the arrest and later accessed and searched the phone for incriminating data without a search warrant. The officer discovered pictures of bundled cash similar to that stolen from the store and a firearm along with incriminating text messages.
Before trial, the man’s criminal defense lawyer sought to suppress the cell phone evidence and argued that the search was a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the evidence to be introduced before the jury at trial.
On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court held that allowing the police to search the cell phone without a warrant was similar to providing law enforcement with a key to the man’s home in order to conduct a warrantless search. The court refused to authorize the government’s intrusion into the most private and personal details of a person’s life without a search warrant and ruled that the police are required to obtain a search warrant before accessing and searching the content of an arrested person’s cell phone.