The California State Court has ruled that police have the right to search the smartphones of people they arrest without a warrant.
The court was hearing the case of Gregory Diaz, who was arrested in Ventura County in April 2007 after police suspected he'd been involved in a drug deal. A search of his text messages revealed evidence that linked him to the deal and the court ruled 5-2 that the subsequent conviction was sound.
In its ruling the court found that existing law determined that all an arrestee's possessions were available to the police for searching including electronics and "this loss of privacy allows police not only to seize anything of importance they find on the arrestee's body ... but also to open and examine what they find," SFGate reports.
Government prosecutors praised the decision, claiming it was needed in a world of increasing electronic communication and would give the police more freedom to do their jobs.
But the ruling was strongly criticised by the dissenting judges, giving the police rights "to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee's person," said Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.
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