Search of cell phone text messages without a warrant

A person has a constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures.  Essentially every person has a right to privacy under the US constitution.  Now the right to privacy is reduced when a person is arrested or under other circumstances. 

Under these rules, police can’t randomly search people to look for drugs or evidence linking them to crimes.  Police need a legitimate reason to search a person or a warrant.  When a person is arrested, police are allowed to do an inventory of the person’s belongings.  This inventory search may lead to the discovery of illegal materials such as weapons or drugs. 

With the new world of technology, courts across the United States are trying to determine the use of warrantless search on technology.  In California, a court ruled that the police don’t need to obtain a warrant to search the text messages of a suspected drug dealer. 

In the 2007 case, the Defendant was arrested by the police on suspicion of drug dealing.  When the Defendant was arrested the police officer took the suspect’s phone out of his pocket and read the text messages without a warrant.  The court ruled that the police didn’t violate the Defendant’s constitutional right. 

States differ on this subject.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that arrested suspects phones can’t be searched without a warrant.  This issue is long from being resolved and may end up being reviewed and ruled on by the US Supreme Court.  Until then, it will be interesting to see how the states rule on this subject and other constitutional issues surrounding technology. 

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Don’t ruin your life with a threatening text, email or Facebook message

Technological advances have brought about a lot of good for people, but it has also lead to its share of issues. It is so easy to interact with people we like and don’t like. For the most part, we are one click away from getting ourselves in trouble.

In the past, when young people sent harsh comments, emails and messages to one another it was rarely faced with tough punishments. Now with the school systems and police departments more aware of the detrimental effects that hazing and bullying can have, these messages are now treated as serious threats. Some may think that this is an overreaction to the recent deaths connected to bullying, while others believe more needs to be done. Either way, the situation is that quicker action is being taken against any acts of bullying, hazing or threats.

Seeing that there is so much attention on this area, it is important that young people refrain from stating anything that resembles a threat. With these messages being sent through the computer or phone, it also makes it much easier for the police to gather evidence. In the end, if you think it may be perceived as a threat, it is unwise to write the statement.

Aside from facing potential punishment from schools, the suspected offender who wrote the threat may face criminal consequences. A criminal record for a young person may be detrimental for the person being accepted to college, getting a job and his or her life. So think twice before writing a threatening message to anyone.

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Threats on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and other social media outlets

Social medial has taken over. Now almost everyone is on these sites. Even professionals are getting involved. Doctors, lawyers, movie stars, sport athletes, the list goes on and on. For the first time, people are connected at all times. And it should be no surprise to anyone that when people are so connected, issues are bound to arise.

The issue with Facebook and Myspace is that you can post messages on each other’s pages. Depending on the user, these messages can be viewed by only certain people, or by the public. One of the major problems is when people start posting horrible messages to one another.

So the real question is when can these messages be qualified as a threat? When can a person be charged for posting a message on Facebook or Myspace? When can a person try to file charges on someone who they think is threatening them on Facebook and Myspace?

The question is one that I get frequently, but the answer is harder to come by. In order to convict someone of threat to commit a crime, the prosecutor needs to prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt.

• First, the person communicated to the alleged victim an intent to injure his/her person or property, now or in the future.

• Second, the injury that was threatened, if carried about, would constitute a crime.

• Third, the person made the threat under circumstances which could reasonably have caused the alleged victim to fear that the person had both the intention and the ability to carry out the threat.

In terms of the messages, the DA may consider the type of messages that are posted and the amount of messages that are posted. Also, the prosecutor needs to prove that the person being charged is the person who actually posted the message. This may be more difficult than you think because the fact that a message comes from a particular Myspace or Facebook account doesn’t necessarily prove that he or she posted the message. People have their accounts hacked or may let other people use their accounts and this situation can be argued by the defense.

To substantiate that the person being charged is indeed the person who sent the message; the DA may look to other evidence. If the DA can find a motive for the person to be sending threatening messages, then their case may become a lot stronger.

There is no real answer to the question of when you can be charged with a crime of threatening for posting a message on a social media site. It really depends on the circumstances. What evidence can be used to support the threat? This largely is determined on a case by case basis. However, a good rule is to not threatened anyone, and definitely don’t post those threats online.

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For more information about this post: Teen charged with posting threat on Facebook

Man on $1 million dollar bail for Facebook threats

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Woman sued over Myspace threats

Man Arrested for Myspace threats

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