Last week we discussed the struggle that courts across the country are facing as they try to determine what, if any, privacy protections apply to data stored on cell phones. Different courts seem unable to agree on how cell phone evidence should be treated in criminal cases and to whom that information belongs.
A United States Senate committee has taken up the issue and is considering amending federal law to clarify these issues. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act regulates how the government may monitor digital communications but it was drafted in 1986 when lawmakers likely had no idea of how much digital communications would shape people’s lives or how they would develop.
The Senate is considering a proposed amendment that would require police officers to obtain a warrant to search email. Currently a warrant is required for recent email messages but law enforcement officials may look at messages more than 180 days old without a warrant.
While the proposal does not specifically address cell phone data or text messages, it is a step in developing policy that could shape their use down the road. If the Senate sets a precedent of honoring the Fourth Amendment and preserving American’s privacy, those values might be manifest in a similar amendment for cell phones in the future.
If you are facing criminal charges or accusations, it is essential that you speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They can help you protect your constitutional rights in the criminal justice system, including protections against unreasonable search and seizure, while building a strong defense and working for the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: New York Times, “Courts divided over searches of cellphones,” Somini Sengupta, Nov. 26, 2012
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