Texas court rules that police cannot search your phone after you're jailed

Expanding the notion of privacy rights in the digital age, Texas’ highest criminal court ruled Wednesday that police improperly searched a Huntsville student’s cell phone without a warrant, even though the device had been sitting in a jail property room. The 8-1 ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected prosecutors’ arguments that officials may search any item that belongs to a jail inmate if there is probable cause to believe a law had been broken.

On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that law enforcement officials do need a warrant to search an arrested person’s cell phone after they’ve been jailed. The ruling did not decide whether it is legal or not for police to search a suspect’s phone at the incidence of arrest, which is currently a hotly contested subject. The Supreme Court is set to decide that matter later this year. For now, however, seven Texas appeals court judges have ruled that a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy over the contents of their cell phone while the phone is being stored in the jail property room. An eighth judge wrote a dissenting opinion.

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