FLORIDA SUPREME COURT THROWS OUT ROBBER’S CELL PHONE PHOTOS OF GUN & CASH FROM THE ROBBERY

Within his cell phone was a crucial piece of evidence against a robbery suspect – a photo of the very gun with stacks of the actual money from the bank robbery. The Trial Judge allowed the photo into evidence, the Defendant was convicted and sentenced to fifty years. At issue on appeal was this question: is a search warrant required for cell phone evidence.
Cell phone technology is like a key to your front door according to the Florida Supreme Court today.
The Florida Supreme Court just handed down an important decision on privacy rights that requires law enforcement officers to obtain a timely search warrant for cell phone evidence such as photographs. The case involved an armed robbery for which the Defendant was convicted and sentenced to fifty years.

The Court determined that it was permissible for Florida officers to obtain the phone itself as evidence, but that if officers want any material from the phone, then good cause must be shown. Further, the Court noted that modern cell phones contain a wealth of information which must be kept private to protect citizen’s rights. Here are excerpts from the case Smallwood v. Florida:

In our view, allowing law enforcement to search an arrestee’s cell phone without a warrant is akin to providing law enforcement with a key to assess the home of the arrestee… 

We refuse to authorize government intrusion into the most private and personal details of an arrestee’s life without a search warrant simply because the cellular phone device which stores that information is small enough to be carried on one’s person.

The Court’s decision is correct in noting that allowing police access to cell phone information just because the cell phone is easily carried is absurd and that the wealth of information found there should be protected. Clearly law enforcement will still have the ability to gain access to cell phone records and to obtain search warrants for any incriminating information on any cell phone once a Judge is shown why officers believe incriminating evidence exists there. 
Without this decision officers could check any cell phone incident to any crime purposefully looking for evidence of any other crime. For example, in a theft case officers would be free to happily look for pictures of drugs or other illegal activity. 

Already our privacy rights are under siege. Federal Courts have found that emails over 180 days old do not require a search warrant because they are deemed abandoned. And Tampa Bay, Florida officers routinely invade homes without search warrants simply by stating that they smell marijuana.

Clearwater criminal defense lawyers hope other pending privacy cases involving cell phone evidence before other courts such as the United States Supreme Court will benefit from the analysis of this case by the Florida Supreme Court which properly balanced privacy rights with the need of law enforcement agents to gather evidence of crime.

CRACK BANK ROBBER DIALS 911 RECEIVING A QUICK SAVINGS ACCOUNT FROM TAMPA BAY DETECTIVES

With two successful unsolved Bank Robberies under his belt, planning the third proved too much for a robber even as he was casing a Wells Fargo Bank in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was very stressed and tired, so he did what any good citizen would do – he called a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer to confess, no this story does not end so happily – no, he dialed 911 according to press reports

addiction to crack may be an argument for mitigation of a drug sentence but not a robbery
Adrian Brouwer, Fumatore, 1635

The robber told stunned dispatchers that he wanted to go back to rehab as he’d fallen off the wagon, the fall apparently directly striking his head. The police obliged in their gentle way by sending him directly to jail where he could have made use of some of that bank money to make a $100,000 bond. St. Petersburg Police Department Detectives charged him with two counts of Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, noting that he not only confessed to the bank robberies, but is addicted to crack cocaine. 
Will the fact that the confessed robber turned himself in by dialing 911 with an argument that he was addicted to drugs at the time of the robberies help in mitigating his sentence? Not much. Florida sentences are determined mathematically by Florida Guidelines and Scoresheets which apply unless trumped by a Florida minimum mandatory sentence. Aggravating his potential sentence is that the robberies were charged as being armed, which if true would likely trigger Florida’s minimum mandatory sentence for firearm possession during a crime. Also, the press notes that he has prior robberies which would ratchet up the Florida Sentencing Guidelines to a level even beyond the minimum mandatory sentence. Tampa Bay’s finest Clearwater Criminal Attorneys, deluded as we are, could argue that the 911 call and the crack cocaine addiction present the Judge with an opportunity to go to the lower end of the guidelines, but even the lower end of the Florida Sentencing Guidelines if calculated were less than the minimum mandatory sentence, a Pinellas Judge will likely look for a very hefty sentence for a violent offense