Saturday, July 21, 2018
News Roundup

Florida Supreme Court rules against warrantless cellphone searches

The Florida Supreme Court delivered a blow to law enforcement officials Thursday, ruling 5-2 that police needed a search warrant to access the data stored on an arrested person's cellphone.

The decision came in the closely watched case of Cedric Smallwood and involved the 2008 robbery of a convenience store in Jacksonville.

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 cellphone could be accessed and searched by law enforcement."

The ruling comes as the 2013 Legislature is wrapping up its agenda without addressing bills filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, that would have prevented warrantless cellphone searches.

Many law enforcement officials lobbied against the Brandes and Trujillo bills, saying they would make it more difficult to apprehend criminals.

Among them was Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who accused lawmakers seeking restrictions on such searches of protecting drug dealers and child pornographers.

On Thursday, Gualtieri said that while he respects the court's decision, the possible consequences concern him.

"That's the court's decision and we'll live with it. That's the tough question for us as a society: Where is that line? Is the result going to be that some evidence may not be collected tomorrow that was collected yesterday? Probably so," Gualtieri said.

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." The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Opinions about the potential impact of the court's decision on policing varied at Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies.

The ruling will have a "really minimum" impact on the agency's current practices, said Hills­borough County Sheriff's Office Col. Donna Lusczynski.

"We have been currently drafting search warrants to look at phones," Lusczynski said, adding that the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office began requesting warrants in recent years. "We just need to make sure it becomes a matter of policy and that we confirm the law."

In some instances, such as an officer safety issue, a warrant was not written to examine a cellphone, said Lusczynski, who oversees the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office's department of investigative services.

That a criminal may have some time to delete evidence from cellphones is "absolutely a concern," she said, especially if the phone can't be confiscated from the suspect during a search.

"Sometimes, we don't have a justification to take someone's phone and potential evidence could be destroyed," she said.

The Tampa Police Department will inform officers about the court's decision, said spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

"For now, we will obtain a search warrant before searching a suspect's cellphone," she said. "It probably will not affect previous cases because it is a change to existing law."

Gualtieri said he was pleased the issue was decided by the courts, not lawmakers. He also applauded the justices for leaving an exemption for "exigent circumstances" in which police could search phones and other devices. Still, he said, the ruling might allow some criminals to evade arrest.

A man found with five child pornography photos in his pocket would be arrested, Gualtieri said, but if he instead had those same images on his phone, "he's going to get away with it."

Charlie Frago can be reached at (727) 445-4159 or [email protected] Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Laura Morel contributed to this report.

Comments
Hillsborough fire rescue engine hit while responding to another accident

Hillsborough fire rescue engine hit while responding to another accident

HILLSBOROUGH — A car slammed into the back of Hillsborough County fire rescue truck as it was responding to a separate single vehicle accident Saturday morning.The driver of the black Toyota Corolla became trapped inside the vehicle. Firefighters fro...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pinellas deputies: Drunk men disturb peace at candy store, kid’s birthday party on same night

Pinellas deputies: Drunk men disturb peace at candy store, kid’s birthday party on same night

Within about 20 minutes and only 15 miles apart this week, Pinellas deputies responded to complaints of drunk men disturbing the peace outside a candy store and near a children’s birthday party.The incidents occurred Tuesday evening.In the first, dep...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough detention deputy charged with DUI

Hillsborough detention deputy charged with DUI

HILLSBOROUGH — A Hillsborough County detention deputy was arrested for driving under the influence early Saturday morning. Jose Cruz, 31, was driving his 2011 Ford Ranger in the McDonald’s parking lot at 9870 301 Highway South. Deputies were alerted ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police arrest Dunedin man for shooting pregnant girlfriend, lying about home invasion

Police arrest Dunedin man for shooting pregnant girlfriend, lying about home invasion

DUNEDIN — Authorities on Friday arrested a 19-year-old for shooting his pregnant girlfriend and then lying about a home invasion. Charles Tenpenny was distraught over accidentally shooting his girlfriend 18-year-old Naomi Rosado who was 20 weeks preg...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

TAMPA — Jameis Winston would like to move forward with his career now that he has accepted the NFL's decision to suspend him three games and apologized — for something — to the Uber driver that the league says he touched in an "inap...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Carlton: Victorious Ybor chickens make Tampa Tampa

Carlton: Victorious Ybor chickens make Tampa Tampa

A city can be judged on its progress by, say, having sleek rail that gets people where they need to go. Or by being home to big-name corporations or impressive sports venues. Or by the sheer number of tall buildings it boasts.At least for today, you ...
Published: 07/21/18
Open office plans are as bad as you thought

Open office plans are as bad as you thought

A cubicle-free workplace without private offices is supposed to force employees to collaborate. To have them talk more face-to-face. To get them off instant messenger and spontaneously brainstroming about new ideas.But a recent study by two researche...
Published: 07/21/18
Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest Rays player is also nearly the oldest.With All-Star C Wilson Ramos on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Tampa Bay turned to veteran Adam Moore, 34, as the new backup catcher behind Jesus Sucre. Only reliever...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police identify man killed in shooting at South Tampa McDonald’s

Police identify man killed in shooting at South Tampa McDonald’s

TAMPA — A man died early Saturday after he was shot Friday night in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in South Tampa.Nicholas A. Mortazavi, 20, was pronounced dead about 3:30 a.m., police said.Police responded to the restaurant at 3515 S Dal...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

ST. PETERSBURG — New York Yankees god and former Tampa resident Derek Jeter, who was once going to save the Rays (or so we thought), was at Tropicana Field on Friday night. The Captain had the gall to show up as Miami Marlins chief executive of...
Published: 07/20/18