Last month, we wrote a post regarding a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling which expanded privacy protections to criminal suspects with respect to their cell phones. The ruling, as we pointed out, requires police to obtain a search warrant before searching the contents of a suspect’s cell phone under ordinary circumstances. Understandably, the ruling was welcomed by privacy rights advocates, including attorneys working in criminal defense.
Not all states will experience the same impact from the law, though. Compared to other states, Florida was ahead of the curve on this issue, and had already required warrants to be obtained for cell phone searches. Still, it is good to see that basic privacy rights are expanding nationwide.
Privacy is, of course, an important issue when it comes to building a solid criminal defense case. Police are bound by numerous rules which have the aim of protecting the privacy interests of criminal suspects. Failure to abide by those rules can lead to illegal gathering of evidence, which can ultimately weaken a criminal case.
One of the protections available to criminal defendants who have been subjected to an illegal search is the ability to have incriminating evidence obtained by an illegal search excluded from evidence at trial. In some cases, this can do considerable harm to a prosecutor’s case, especially when the case was largely built around that particular evidence.
It is important for criminal defendants to work with a skilled attorney when building a defense, and to keep in mind the possibility of wrongdoing on the part of the police. A good attorney will know what to look for and how to include such issues in a solid criminal defense case.
Source: 10 News, “Little effect in Florida from cell phone ruling,” Gabrielle Peterson, June 25, 2014.