If I Am Arrested, Can Police Appear at My Text Messages?

Erik Rangel allegedly beat and stabbed a man in a San Mateo park. The crime was believed to be gang related. Days later, a judge signed a warrant for Rangel’s arrest and a search warrant for Rangel’s home. The search warrant authorized the seizure of stabbing instruments, as properly as things containing stains or traces of human blood. The search warrant further authorized the seizure of products commonly recognized as gang indicia.

When police served the arrest warrant and the search warrant at Rangel’s residence, they seized a lot of items, such as Rangel’s cell telephone, which police described as being inside his reach whey they located Rangel in his bedroom. The phone was a “wise telephone,” i.e. one that could shop photographs and videos.

When asked where he was the proper of the beating, Rangel stated he was with his girlfriend, but he could not don’t forget her final name. Police then provided to contact his girlfriend if Rangel could give them her number. Rangel then mentioned it was in his telephone and consented to police browsing his telephone for “Vanessa.” Rangel did not limit the scope of access to his contacts on his telephone.

According to the police, as they have been looking for Vanessa’s number, they found details in text messages that seemed to link Rangel to the attack. The police officer testified at trial that he was familiar with how text messages supplied phone numbers, so he searched the text messages.

At trial, the jury convicted Rangel and Rangel appealed, arguing that evidence of the text messages must be suppressed since the cell phone was outside the scope of the search warrant. He additional argued that his consent for the officer to search the phone was restricted to looking the speak to list in the telephone. The officer, he argued, exceeded the scope of the consent by reading the text messages.

The prosecutor argued that the warrant’s scope included a search for indicia of gang involvement, so this included the cell telephone contents, which may well include photographs. It is typical for gang member who tag areas to photograph their tagging after it is carried out.

The Initial Appellate District, in Men and women v. Erik Rangel (2012 DJDAR 7938), argued that the search warrant did allow the seizure of the cell phone. The court explained that in other published opinions, exactly where a search warrant permitted the search of premises for items showing manage over certain premises, the court permitted the seizure of a laptop laptop, even even though “computer systems” have been not listed on the warrant.

The court continued, saying that below the functional equivalent test, the fact that the document have been in digital kind does not bar officers from seizing the evidence. The pc was appropriately seized because it was most likely to particular in data relating to control over the premises.

The appellate court reasoned that the “smart telephone” is basically a laptop personal computer, as a “smart phone” can retailer photos of artwork, photographs of graffiti and videos to show gang members or at least proof that the owner of the phone is a gang member. Therefore, the reading of the text messages was also correct and inside the scope of the warrant (although at the time the officer was not browsing the telephone for indicia of gang involvement – he was seeking for Vanessa’s telephone number).

The court next commented that a second warrant to search the content of the text messages was not required, specifically when the telephone was effectively seized. As an aside, the court commented that Rangel did not contest the affidavit supporting the warrant insofar as it established probable trigger to search for gang indicia.

Consequently, the lower court’s conviction was affirmed.