Texas High Court Finds Privacy Rights for Cell Phone!
On February 26, 2014 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed a case involving the following facts:
A high school student was arrested for causing a disturbance on a school bus. As part of the regular arrest procedure, the student’s cellular phone was taken from him and held as his property. While the police still had the phone, a police officer received information from another student that the student arrested from the bus had taken an inappropriate photo the day before the arrest. The officer turned the phone on and examined the photos on the phone without a warrant.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the student does have an expectation of privacy in the contents of the phone. The Court specifically held that by turning the phone on and looking at its contents without a warrant was a violation of Constitution protections which guard privacy and the evidence was not admissible in court.
Both the US Constitution and Texas Constitution protect privacy rights of people. Both of these important laws also provide that when the police get evidence in violation of these laws, the evidence cannot be used in court against the defendant.
How Does This Case Affect a DWI Arrest?
Police commonly take cellular phones from people when they are arrested for DWI / DUI. Before this new case, police officers commonly look through cellular phones of arrestees and read text messages, emails, and look through their photos. Hopefully this clarification in privacy rights will stop this horrible invasion of privacy that occurs on a daily basis in Houston, Texas.
What Would the Best DWI Lawyer Do?
If a person has been arrested, and there is an electronic device on their person or in their car, like a mobile phone or a laptop, the information and images stored on those devices are not open to the public. Officers are not entitled to browse through this digital information without the authority of a search warrant. A DWI lawyer should look closely at any case involving digital information viewed by the police and file the proper objections or motions regarding any evidence found on these devices.