Home | Law |

Can Police Read Text Messages Without a Warrant?

By
Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
Can Police Read Text Messages Without a Warrant?

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Washington State Supreme Court Monday to recognize that text messages are "the 21st Century phone call" and require that law enforcement officers obtain a warrant before reading texts on someone's phone.

"Text messages are a ubiquitous form of communication, and their context can be as private as any telephone conversation," said EFF Staff Attorney HanniFakhoury. "We use texts to talk to our wives and husbands, our kids, our co-workers, and more. Police should not be able to sift through these personal exchanges on a whim – they must show probable cause and get a warrant before accessing this information."

In this case, police seized a cell phone during a drug investigation and monitored incoming messages. Officers responded to several texts, setting up meetings that resulted in two arrests, without first getting a warrant. Prosecutors have argued that no warrant was required because there should be no expectation of privacy in text messages, as anyone can pick up someone else's phone and read what's stored there. But in two related amicus briefs filed Monday, EFF argues that searching the phone for the texts without a warrant clearly violates the Constitution.

"The state argues that just because someone can intercept a communication, you should reasonably expect that communication to be intercepted. That's a dangerous way to interpret the Fourth Amendment," said Fakhoury. "The prosecutors' theory would eviscerate any privacy protections in the digital age. We're asking the Washington State Supreme Court here to recognize what's at stake and to require a warrant before allowing officers to read text messages on a cell phone."

VenkatBalasubramani of FOCAL PLLC in Seattle, Washington, served as EFF's local counsel in the cases.

 

For the full amicus briefs:

https://www.eff.org/cases/washington-state-text-message-privacy-cases

Contacts:

HanniFakhoury

   Staff Attorney

   Electronic Frontier Foundation

   hanni@eff.org

 

Share on :
Post on Facebook Facebook Add to your del.icio.us del.icio.us Digg this story Digg StumbleUpon StumbleUpon Twitter Twitter

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

Please enter the code you see in the image:

Captcha
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text
Share on :
Post on Facebook Facebook Add to your del.icio.us del.icio.us Digg this story Digg StumbleUpon StumbleUpon Twitter Twitter

Tagged as:

text messages, Can Police Read Text Messages Without a Warrant, CELL PHONE SEIZED, SEARCH WARRANTS, law enforcement officers obtain a warrant before reading texts on someone's phone, privacy protections in the digital age

Rate this article

0