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“Can the cops search my mobile device without a warrant?”

PhilOne of the cornerstones of our legal protections in our society, the right to be free from search and seizure by the government unless and until the issuance of a search warrant by the court upon a finding of probable cause, may soon have application and become the law in the state of Florida in relation to our portable electronic devices.  Right now, if you are arrested in the state of Florida, law enforcement can take you cell phone or your electronic tablet, for example, and search all of your personal contents, without having to show a judge that there is probable cause to search such items in relation to a criminal charge or allegation and obtain a search warrant.  This, however, may be a thing of the past, and right now there are two bills before in the Florida legislature, one in the Florida House of Representatives, and one in the Florida Senate, that could make such activity a thing of the past.

Florida House of Representatives Bill 797, and Florida Senate Bill 846 both recognize that we use our cell phones, computers, and electronic tablets constantly to obtain and transmit personal information, and pursuant to our fundamental freedoms, we have a reasonable and justifiable expectation of privacy in this information.  The Senate’s version of the bill recently passed its initial committee; the first round of committee review takes place this week in the Florida House.  The bills will be under much scrutiny as they make there way through the review process in each chamber, and no doubt lobbyists for both state law enforcement agencies and state prosecutor’s will surely be seeking that the bills not be passed.  However, our constitutional foundation for protections against the intrusion on the privacy of information and the freedom of communication in our society weigh in favor of the Florida legislature to make this law.  If you wish to track the status of this bill, you can do so at  http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0797.