WA: Cell phone search must be strictly limited to the PC that authorized it

“Modern cell phones are unique devices, capable of storing vast amounts of personal data. To guard against governmental invasion of this information, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution generally requires explicit authorization to search a cell phone through a court-issued warrant. Like other warrants, a cell phone warrant must be based on probable cause of criminal activity and must limit the scope of the cell phone search to the probable cause determination. Because the cell phone search at issue in this case did not comport with these criteria, we reverse.” State v. Fairley, 2020 Wash. App. LEXIS 355 (Feb. 18, 2020).

The state search warrant was for “any and all electronic data processing and storage devices.” While the warrant did not include cell phones, a smartphone is internet capable and has vast storage. Therefore, it reasonably included defendant’s smartphone. In addition, the good faith exception applies. United States v. Pospisil, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27075 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 18, 2020).

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