Spend 600 Months In Prison When Police Search Lost Cell Phone

Law Office of W.F. ''Casey'' Ebsary Jr
Search of Lost Cell Phone

What Happens When Police Search Your Lost Cell Phone That Has Illegal Material On It?

The story begins in a Walmart in Florida. The owner lost their phone at Walmart. After he left the phone, it was found, and the owner agreed to pick it up from the store. The owner of the phone failed to pick the phone up from the store. The store manager looked at the phone in an effort to find a photo of the owner. When the manager found contraband on the phone, she called the cops – police search lost cell phone.

Search Warrant for an Abandoned Cell Phone

Police search lost cell phone – The cops waited 23 days to get a search warrant. A Florida Court ruled that this did not constitute an unreasonable delay to obtain a search warrant. First, the court found that the defendants had hoped the store manager would not report the materials found on the phone to the police. Second, the phone owner had filed an insurance claim and replaced the phone with the exact same model. The decision to not retrieve the phone from the store, coupled with the filing of an insurance claim, and replacing the phone with the same model constituted an abandonment of ownership of the phone. Search and seizure law requiresthat those who challenge a search and seizure must have standing to challenge the search. In this case, the phone owner had no standing to challenge the search, the phone and any rights the owner had to challenge the search and seizure were gone. The court also addressed the Private Search Doctrine that supports searches by citizens, that otherwise might be illegal if performed by the police or the government.

Sentenced to 600 Months in Federal Prison

By the way, the court found that a 600 month sentence for the materials found on the phone was just fine. The phone owner entered a written plea agreement and the sentence was a possible outcome that while it was as harsh as the judge could impose, it was within the terms of the plea agreement.

Case Excerpts

“When Vo [store manager] failed to meet Sparks [phone owner] with the phone as the two had previously agreed, Defendants knew how to find Vo to get their phone back. But Defendants did not return to their Walmart store and look for Vo. Nor did they ask for Walmart’s assistance in obtaining their phone, found in its store, by its employee. They also did not file a report with Walmart or the police complaining that Vowould not return their phone, despite their requests. Instead, they made a conscious decision to stop pursuing the phone, even though they knew how to get it back with reasonable effort. That decision—whether because Defendants hoped that Vo would not report them if they did not continue to seek the phone or because Defendants simply thought recovery of the phone was not worth their reasonable effort—can be viewed only as a deliberate decision to abandon the phone. Because Defendants abandoned their phone within three days of having lost it, they lack standing to challenge law enforcement’s 23-day delay between recovering the phone and obtaining a search warrant to search it.”

The Private-Search Doctrine

“The Fourth Amendment provides that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. The protection the FourthAmendment affords, however, extends to governmental action only; “it is wholly inapplicable ‘to a search or seizure, even an unreasonable one, effected by a private individual not acting as an agent of the Government or with the participation or knowledge of any governmental official.’” United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S.109, 113, 104 S. Ct. 1652, 1656 (1984) (quoting Walter v. United States, 447 U.S.649, 662, 100 S. Ct. 2395, 2404 (1980) (Blackmun, J., dissenting)). So once an individual’s expectation of privacy in particular information has been frustrated by a private individual, the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit law enforcement’s subsequent use of that information, even if obtained without a warrant. Id. at 116,104 S. Ct. at 1656; see id. at 117, 104 S. Ct. at 1658-59.”

Read Complete Opinion Here: media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201412143.pdf

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