Monday, February 27, 2012

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me, Part II.

The subtitle to what follows ought to be "You're busted, stupid."

I was cleaning up my desk this morning-tax time doncha know-and I found a case I'd meant to write up a while ago.

People v. Diaz, no. S166600, (Cal. Jan. 3, 2011).

Dias was observed being involved in an informant's purchase of ecstasy.

For all you old duffers like me, it's MDMA, an amphetamine type drug, illegal, big among the rave crowds, and, all things being equal, something to avoid.

Diaz was arrested and transported to a Ventura County sheriff's substation and his cell phone was taken away from him. The deputy looked in the cell phone's text message folder and found a message that appeared as a coded drug transaction. He confronted Diaz with this, and Diaz 'fessed up.

Diaz moved to suppress the evidence, including his inculpatory statements, arguing that the warrantless search of his cell phone constituted an illegal search and a violation of his fourth amendment rights.

If the cell phone was personal property immediately associated with the defendant's person, then the search was permissible. On the other hand if the search was remote in time and place from the arrest, it could not be a search incident to arrest.

The court determined that the cell phone was personal property impounded at the time of his arrest, and because it was immediately associated with Diaz' person, the police were entitled to inspect the contents of the phone's memory.

The dissent makes some pungent observations about the quality and nature of the information contained in the phone's memory as being different than the actual phone itself, but this did not sway the court.