Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your Mobile Phone, Your Text Messages, and the California Law

The use of cellular phones and PDA's is becoming more and more prevalent, and the amount information stored in them is expanding exponentially. This articles discusses some recent legal developments in this area.

In a recent decision in the case of The People vs. Gregory Diaz, the California Supreme Court upheld a criminal conviction based on a warrantless search of the suspect's cellular phone incident to his arrest. The Ventura County police had been surveilling a drug deal though a wire worn by a police informant. After the drug deal went through, police officers pulled over the drug dealer and arrested him. At the time of the custodial arrest, police found some drugs and a cell phone on the dealer's person. When the officers interviewed the dealer at the precinct he first denied the drug deal. But when the officers showed him the text message on his cell phone indicating the drug price, he admitted to the deal. Later, the dealer moved to suppress the evidence as the fruit of illegal search and seizure under Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, the California High Court upheld the search and the evidence found.

During the past few years, the California legislature has enacted several laws to respond to the growing use of wireless communication devices (text message) and wireless telephones (cell phone). Effective July 1, 2008, California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 prohibits all drivers from text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Effective January 1, 2009, California Vehicle Code Section 23123 prohibits all drivers from using a cellular phone while operating a motor vehicle, although drivers 18 years or older may use hands free devices. Finally, California Vehicle Code Section 23124 prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from text messaging or using cell phones while driving, even if they have a "hands free" device, with the exception of some emergency uses. For additional information, visit the web site of the California DMV.

Most people know that their cell phone has a global positioning system (GPS) that which allows the phone company to track where the cell phone is located at any point in time. Many do not realize, however, that the photographs taken by the cell phone contain GPS coordinates of the location. This so-called "geo-tag" information may inadvertently give away a person's private information such as their residence address. Some commenators have raised concerns about these hidden codes embedded on photographs, and their resulting invasion of privacy. We may see some lawsuits in this regard in the near future.

Robin Mashal is a Los Angeles business attorney, and a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal LLP. Mr. Mashal has been admitted to the State Bar of California and the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. He can be reached by phone at (310) 286-2000.

1 comment:

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