Provisions in the US Constitution restrict unwarranted searches on people, their homes or belongings. Controversies have arisen within the criminal justice system concerning the viability of information gathered through unwarranted searches on suspected criminals. Technological transformation has placed mobile phones and other portable electronic gadgets as sources of confidential information that law enforcement officers may use as evidence against suspected criminals. Mobile phones contain data such as call logs and text messages, which can provide the police with crucial information in a criminal investigation.
Opponents of unwarranted searches on mobile devices describe the exercise as an illegal procedure as per the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. They raise concerns about infringement on the privacy of suspected criminals. Although such assertions are valid, doubts arise on the probability of an individual allowing the police to search his or her person and property, and seize any evidence that may facilitate prosecution. When individuals realize that they are suspects, they attempt to get rid of any material that may act as evidence against them. Thus, a case whereby an individual permits law enforcement officers to search and identify suspicious text messages, which may act as legally acceptable evidence during prosecution, is not likely to occur.
The restrictions concerning the attainment of a search warrant introduces challenges that make some important sources of evidence inaccessible. The procedure of obtaining a search warrant is considerably lengthy. It takes time to convince a judge that conducting a criminal search on an individual or property will benefit a criminal investigation. A judge can only issue a search warrant if there is a probable cause in a certain investigation. Search warrants provide the legality of searches on the person or his property without the person’s consent. Criminals tend to exploit the adherence to protocol and get the time to exonerate themselves through the discarding of incriminating information before the issuance of search warrants against them.
Although there was no search warrant in Harvey’s case, several factors highlight the legality of the search on the suspect’s phone. Law enforcement officers searched an individual suspected of possessing illegal substances. In the process, they found other objects belonging to the suspect such as the mobile phone. Such a situation does not allow time for a law enforcement officer to seek for a search warrant before searching the suspect’s mobile phone. There was a high probability that Harvey would have destroyed any information in the phone that could act as evidence against him. Such an act could have hindered access to the information that enlightened the police on Harvey’s actions. The People v. Diaz case in which California’s highest court made a ruling allowing the police to download text messages in a suspected criminal’s mobile phone illustrates a scenario applicable to Harvey’s case. The Court recognized that information contained in mobile phones was reliable enough for use during prosecution. This was after the police arrested Gregory Diaz for the suspected sale of ecstasy. Although they did not have a search warrant, the police found incriminating evidence in Diaz’s phone and presented the evidence in court during trial. The court thwarted attempts to render the information as inappropriate due to unwarranted search by ruling that the search on Diaz’s cell phone coincided with a lawful arrest exercise. Diaz’s mobile phone acted as a key source of evidence that proved he was guilty as charged.
Harvey’s case is similar to the People v. Diaz case. In this regard, the court should make exceptions on the Fourth Amendment regarding the legality of unwarranted searches. The ruling by the California’s High Court illustrates that searching objects belonging to a suspected criminal is part of the arrest process rather than an independent undertaking.