The Alpharetta-Milton Patch reported the crime blogger on August 30, 2011. In it was your usual identity theft, car break-in’s and drug busts. But I found one particular case that disturbed me.
Earlier in the week, two teens were pulled over in Milton on Cogburn Road because of broken tail light. The officer smelled alcohol and marijuana coming from the car and subsequently charged the driver with DUI, possession of marijuana less than one ounce and brake light citations. Clearly, these kids were up to no good, and clearly, they were headed to jail. No one would argue that. But then I read this: “Police read text messages on the driver’s phone that sound as if a drug deal was being made.”
Excuse me, but what gave the officer the right to scroll through this young man’s text messages? How was the cell phone suddenly evidence in a DUI, possession and brake light case?
The text messages prompted the officer to do a SECOND search of both of the teens and found a scale, more marijuana and $655 in cash. The officer then charged both teens with ‘Intent to distribute’. I have a major problem with how all of this went down. Sure, these teens were going to jail and all of the above mentioned items would have been confiscated when they were booked. The fact that they were discovered by a search of the cell phone is absolutely incensing to me. There is this thing given to us by the Constitution called ‘rights’ (they often pertain to privacy) and it’s absurd that a police officer can violate that, especially when it is irrelevant to the case.
My disbelief lead me to do some research. Apparently not too long ago, a Georgia appellate court decision upheld a warrantless search of a cell phone found in an arrestees’ car (not on her person). Various websites also stated that officers must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is occuring…was there more reasonable suspicion to lead to a cell phone search? I don’t think so. And wouldn’t most agree that this law was instated (and upheld) on the premise of texting and driving? I also learned that many states are classifying cell phones as ‘containers’- how they think that adds up, I’m not sure. Is my brain a ‘container’ as well? It holds information.
**Note: Had the phone needed a password for it to be unlocked, the teens could have invoked their 5th amendment right to silence and the officers would not have been able to search the phone without a warrant.
Alpharetta-Milton Patch Article http://alpharetta.patch.com/articles/milton-teens-face-drug-charges-parents-wrath