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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State Supreme Court upholds privacy rights in cell phone case

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police do not have the authority to confiscate and search the contents of an arrested person's cell phone without first obtaining a search warrant. The 5-2 decision came in the closely-watched case of Cedric Smallwood, and involved the robbery of a convenience store in Jacksonville in 2008.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Fred Lewis said that in Smallwood's case, "a warrant was required before the information, data and content of the cell phone could be accessed and searched by law enforcement."

The ruling comes as the 2013 Legislature is wrapping up its agenda without addressing the issue. Bills filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, would have revised state law in a way that was consistent with what the court decided. Many law enforcement officials lobbied against the Brandes and Trujillo bills, saying it would make it more difficult to apprehend criminals.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston shared a dissenting opinion in the Smallwood case and warned that the majority decision "has the potential to work much mischief in Fourth Amendment law."

[Last modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 2:39pm]


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