Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ohio court: Cell phone searches require warrant

Police officers must obtain a search warrant before scouring the contents of a suspect's cell phone unless their safety is in danger, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday on an issue that appears never to have reached another state high court or the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ohio high court ruled 5-4 in favor of Antwaun Smith, who was arrested on drug charges after he answered a cell phone call from a crack cocaine user acting as a police informant. Officers took Smith's cell phone when he was arrested and, acting without a warrant and without his consent, searched it. They found a call history and stored numbers that showed Smith had previously been in contact with the drug user. Writing for the majority in Tuesday's ruling, Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger said the only case law available to guide the court appeared to be the conflicting federal court decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn't taken up the issue and there appeared to be no decisions from top-level state courts on the matter, she wrote. Lanzinger said the majority didn't agree with the state's argument that a cell phone was akin to a closed more

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