Florida appeals court rules that police can search your cell phone as they do a wallet

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - To Denise Perez, it doesn't get any more personal than a cell phone - which she's on all day.

"You have as much information on your cell phone as you do a home," said the West Palm Beach resident.

Which is why she's angered by a ruling in a Brevard County appeals court, that NewsChannel5 legal analyst Michelle Suskauer says has statewide consequences.

"If you're arrested with your cell phone on your person, your cell phone can then be seized and searched by law enforcement," said Suskauer.

In reversing a lower court's ruling and siding with decisions made in other state courts, Brevard judges allowed prosecutors to admit evidence against a suspected drug user they found on his cell phone - that they say shows he was planning to sell drugs as well.

Suskauer says the appeals court views your phone as any other container you'd have on yourself, like a wallet.

"As a criminal defense lawyer and as a citizen it certainly troubles me because certainly you think that your cell phone is private," said Suskauer.

But Brad Robinson, former CIA Agent and head of a West Palm Beach security firm, says a cell phone is simply a modern-day address book, and that police commonly search those after an arrest.

Because today's phones can have many times the information as a handwritten address book, that can be invaluable in compiling evidence, and in keeping the public safe.

"The average suspect, person, underestimates how much potentially incriminating evidence there is on their cell phones," said Robinson.

But Jashua Sa-Ra says that allowing cell phone searches is the equivalent of a police officer tapping into someone's brain to see what they're thinking. He says cell phones are more than just a container.

"I know people who live their whole lives through it. They've got so much information in there," said Sa-Ra.

Michelle Suskauer expects the Brevard County case to not only go to the Florida Supreme Court, but to the US Supreme Court as well.

She says it's unclear if police officers can make you give up a password, so that anyone concerned should lock their phone at all times.

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