Texas Court of Appeals has ruled that people have a legitimate expectation of privacy over the contents of their cell phone which requires that police obtain a warrant prior to looking through someone's cell phone. The case involved the case of a student, Anthony Granville, who had been arrested for causing a disturbance on a school bus. While Granville was being booked in the police station, the school resource officer received information that Granville had taken a photograph with his cell phone of another student urinating in the school bathroom and went to the booking room, took Granville's cell phone, started looking through the contents of the phone, found the photograph and printed a copy of it. He then charged Granville with taking an unauthorized photograph, which is a felony in Georgia. Granville's attorney's filed a Motion to Suppress in front of the trial judge, and the motion was granted and the evidence seized by the officer, mainly the photograph, was suppressed. The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court and found that the cell phone contents were covered by the 4th Amendment and that owners of the phone have an expectation of privacy over the contents of the phone and that the people were required to obtain a warrant prior to searching through the contents of the phone. This case is important because it touches on some of the issues involving the NSA warrantless electronic surveillance which has dominated the national discussion the past year or so. This case stands for the proposition that people maintain an expectation of privacy in their electronic communications even though they voluntarily gave it up to someone. The legal issues surrounding this issue are evolving and there are sure to be more changes and developments. But this decision does represent a small victory for critics of the NSA surveillance program. The Texas case was a 7 to 1 decision.
The case is Texas v. Granville.
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