Warrantless phone searches troublesome

By David Tanner, associate editor

In a world where some people make their living pouring grease onto Teflon slopes, how long will it be until we see law enforcement playing “gotcha” with truckers by searching their cell phones without a warrant?

The question bears asking.

In 2010, the feds banned texting while driving for commercial operators, but everyone knows that enforcing such a ban is nearly impossible without warrants, arrests, strong suspicions of illegal activity, or – help us all – a crash.

Right now, at least, it looks as if the average law-abiding trucker has rights and protections from unlawful search and seizure – and things need to stay that way.

The California Supreme Court recently ruled that it is OK for law enforcement to search a suspect’s phone, including text messages, without a warrant, but only following an arrest of the suspect.

Note, they said “arrest” and “suspect.”

Reasonable suspicion aside, if a driver is not doing anything wrong, he or she should not be subject to a search. Period.

With that said, we all know that there are people out there, including some law enforcement, with something to prove. If they want that phone, they have tactics to try and get it.

A Land Line Magazine feature in the May 2006 issue shed light on some of these persuasive tactics. It was called, “You don’t mind if I look inside your truck, do you?”

Officers may already be asking, “You don’t mind if I look inside your phone, do you?”

How you handle it is up to you, but remember you have rights. In the meantime, don’t give them any more ammo than they currently possess.

And if you are out there texting and driving for any reason, cut it out. There’s no sense poking the bear. LL