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Michigan Police Could Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops 525

SonicSpike writes "The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program. A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and videos off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections. 'Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags,' a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device's capabilities." Popular Mechanics has a short conversation with a 4th Amendment lawyer about the practice of slurping cellphone data, too, though it's unclear if the Michigan police are actually using these devices to their full potential.
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Michigan Police Could Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:09PM (#35874862) Journal

    Just, rest assured, cops rarely get away with it if you have a decent lawyer.

    It takes a damn good lawyer to get a cop tried for deprivation of rights under color of law. It ought to happen every time the exclusionary rule is applied.

  • Remember when... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:11PM (#35874878)

    Americans wouldn't put up with this Soviet crap?

  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:16PM (#35874920) Homepage

    Should this be allowed to stand, traffic stops will become a new tool for police to conduct what would in any other context be considered illegal suspicionless searches. It's bad enough they can do this at the border for reasons unrelated to airline security, but now they want to get away with it anywhere in the country.

    When citizens take freedom for granted it becomes way too easy for the government to take those freedoms away. It's also way too easy to forget the sacrifices of generations past and sit idly by as the government flushes people's freedom down the toilet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:21PM (#35874972)

    If more people would file these lawsuits against officers who violate their rights the practice would end very quickly.

    No, those "trouble makers" would be marked and "eliminated" as quickly as possible. Imagine the dispatcher decides to ... "accidentally" forget for a few minutes that you called for help when someone is invading your home, or the patrol car that has been dispatched decided to ... take the "scenic route" to your home while you're being robbed at gun point.

    No, I don't have any faith in the legal system, from police up to the supreme court.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:25PM (#35875022)

    It was anti-Soviet crap when we did it before to hunt down the red menace. Now we do it to hunt down the terrorists and drug dealers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:35PM (#35875126)
    Police couldn't be there in time anyways. For those situations, you're better be prepared to defend yourself.
  • by hldn ( 1085833 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:46PM (#35875222) Homepage

    they can take their sweet time if they want, the dead criminal isn't going anywhere.

  • Re:Just say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:46PM (#35875228)

    Not good to give false information to a cop but you are not required to give information that might incriminate you either.

    You could say nothing or:

    "I do not consent to searches, am I free to do now?"

    or just:

    "am I free to go now".

    That "I do not consent to searches" is key. A lot of times the cops will phrase the question as "do you mind if we search your car?" If you say "no" they take that to mean "no, I don't mind" and if you say "yes" they take it to mean "yes you may search". Saying you do not consent to a search removes this ambiguity.

    It's some sad times we live in that such a concern would ever cross the minds of a regular citizen who is not a career criminal.

  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @08:14PM (#35875492)


    It's not good enough to just have the evidence be ruled inadmissible. The cop ought to be fired (or worse) and compensation paid to the victim.

  • Re:Just say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @08:16PM (#35875506)

    It's some sad times we live in that such a concern would ever cross the minds of a regular citizen who is not a career criminal.

    Right; because innocent people never got hung back in the good ol' days.

    What planet are you living on, anyway?

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:29PM (#35876074)

    More than that: the cop should be imprisoned, and so should his superiors, all the way up to the mayor, unless they can prove they were innocent and didn't know this was happening (yes, this requires guilty-until-proven-innocent, which I think is fine for cases involving abuses of civil liberties by the government).

  • But, speaking from experience, you can claim illegal search and seizure at preliminary trials, which can result in the charges being dropped..

    Only if it is an illegal search.

    If the cop asks "You don't mind if I check your phone, do you?" and you don't say "No, I do not consent to a search" (the cops often phrase it in an odd way to make it not clear if "Yes" or "No" is the correct answer, so answering in an um-ambiguous way is wise) and you actually let him search it (or your car, pockets, etc.) ... then it's not an illegal search.

    Not nearly enough people realize that when the cops ask that -- the proper answer is "No, I do not consent to a search". If you don't have anything to hide and you're SURE of that, then I guess you can let him search, but if there's any doubt -- absolutely not. It will *not* go easier on you.

  • by rhook ( 943951 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:33PM (#35876780)

    Perhaps you should brush up on the law and understand the legal meaning of "shall be liable"? Qualified immunity does not apply when you knowingly violate someones civil rights, it is only a protection when there is "good faith", furthermore there should be no such thing as qualified immunity since it goes against the equal protection part of the 14th Amendment. You see, police are no different from regular citizens, and as such they should have no special protections under the law. []

    Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
    regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the
    District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
    citizen of the United States or other person within the
    jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges,
    or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable
    to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
    proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought
    against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such
    officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted
    unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was
    unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress
    applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be
    considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

    That says that they are personally liable, not the department that they work for, and not their union. Officers effectively lose all legal protection from both their department and their union when they have a USC 1983 civil rights lawsuit filed against them (these cases only move forward when there is no qualified immunity). However, should the officer win, they can recover legal fees from the plaintiff. I know LA thinks they make the law but they do not, they've been smacked down several times for trying to play by their own rules.

  • Re:Oh please! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:55PM (#35876924)

    1) These aren't "mistakes", they're blatant violation of Citizens' civil liberties. This is like calling the actions of the Nazi SS "simple mistakes".

    2) No, but I don't work for the government, nor do I carry a gun and get to shoot it at people who don't follow my orders. I'm a lowly employee of a private company, not someone in a position of authority within the government who has the right to take another person's life. If you're in a position of authority, then you have far more responsibility than anyone who isn't. If you can't handle that, then you should get another job.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle