Police Cell Phone Search Ruled Illegal

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A search of a man’s cell phone that led to finding names of about two dozen other people and Social Security numbers was improper because police did not have a warrant.

That was the ruling Wednesday from the three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal who sided with Viervens Saint-Hilaire, who sought to suppress evidence found on the cell phone.

During a routine traffic stop, a police officer discovered that Saint-Hilaire’s wallet contained about eight debit cards of the same color and bank name. The officer arrested Saint-Hilaire based on the coding on one of the cards.

A search of his cell phone found the names of 24 or 25 people along with Social Security numbers. Saint-Hilaire was later charged with nine counts of possession of personal identification information with an intent to defraud.

A Miami-Dade County circuit judge upheld the validity of the search. But the appeals court, pointing in part to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on warrant-less searches of cell phones, overturned that ruling.

“Here, there was no evidence that the cell phone was going to be used to endanger the officer or resist arrest, or that evidence contained in the cell phone was going to be destroyed,” said the ruling, written by Judge Ivan Fernandez and joined by judges Leslie Rothenberg and Thomas Logue. “Thus, the circumstances surrounding Saint-Hilaire’s arrest required the officers to obtain a warrant before they searched the contents of the cell phone.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.



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