Police downplay high court decision on drug crimes investigations

On behalf of Brian D. Roman, Attorney at Law on Friday, July 11, 2014.

For many police, searching the cellphones of newly arrested suspects was the gift that kept on giving. In fact, the Norwood, Massachusetts police chief says that it was standard practice to look at the last few texts or phone call logs of suspects in drug cases. All of that changed June 25 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police agencies require a warrant to conduct searches on a seized cellphone.

The high court said that the cellphone should have increased privacy protection due to the large amount of information which can be stored on them.

The law enforcement community in Massachusetts seems to be taking the prohibition against conducting cellphone fishing expeditions in stride. A North Attleboro police captain says that they have either been obtaining warrants or asking defendants for their permission to search their phones for quite some time.

Others in the law enforcement community say that the more restrictive requirements will have some detrimental effects, but say they will comply because they don't want to see their evidence get tossed.

Criminal defendants facing drug crimes need to know that they have rights granted to them which are protected by the Constitution. Among those rights is the right to be free of illegal searches by police. That could mean that evidence seized during an illegal traffic stop cannot be used to prove a defendant's guilt. It might also mean that in a drug crimes case, evidence that was unlawfully obtained cannot be used to demonstrate a conspiracy to distribute or otherwise traffic in illegal narcotics. A criminal defendant should consider the long-term implications of consenting to give away any of their constitutional rights.

Source: The Sun Chronicle, "Warrant impact ruling 'minimal' for Attleboro area police," June 28, 2014