Burglar who lost phone at scene of burglary with passcode 1234 has no right of privacy

Posted 14 June 2018 16:12 CEST by Jan Willem Aldershoff

An American citizen, who lost his poorly secured phone during a burglary and who could be tracked down and convicted that way, could not appeal to his right on privacy and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. His lawyers argued his privacy was violated because his phone was searched without a warrant.

Police agents found the phone after a burglary in Charleston, South Carolina and stored it as potential evidence. When after six days the phone still wasn’t claimed by the rightful owner, the police decided to guess the pass code, which turned out to be 1234. The phone number of the burglar’s granny was found after the phone was unlocked, which directed the police to Lamar Brown, who then argued the police had no right to search his phone.

Judges of the Supreme Court of South Carolina didn’t agree and stated that a phone that hasn’t been claimed by the rightful owner after six days, can be considered abandoned property and can be searched without a court-ordered warrant.

The Supreme Court also stated that, “it is not that the information on a cellphone is immune from search; it is instead that a warrant is generally required before such a search.”

“Any police officer would assume after six days of no efforts by the owner to recover this phone — especially under the circumstance that the owner left the phone at the scene of a burglary — that the owner had decided it was too risky to try to recover it. Brown’s decision not to attempt to recover the phone equates to the abandonment of the phone,” the court added.


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