NSBA Legal Clips
Archived entries for cell phone

Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rules that police must obtain warrant before searching the cell phone of individual placed under arrest

In an unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled police must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphones of individuals placed under arrest, reports The New York Times. The decision in two consolidated cases, Riley v. California, Docket No. 13-132. and U.S. v. Wurie, Docket No. 13-212. Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the Court’s opinion, acknowledged that cell phones are “… a pervasive and insistent part of daily life ….” Roberts pointed out that implicit in the Fourth Amendment is a revulsion against “general warrants,”and “[t]he fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

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Supreme Court hears argument on what standard should apply to searches of cell phones

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two pivotal Fourth Amendment cases involving the warrantless search of criminal suspects’ cell phones.

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Washington district’s board considers revising policy to limit searches of student cell phones

The Port Angeles School Board plans to meet soon to discuss revising its policy on administrative searches of student cell phones.

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Federal appeals court finds Kentucky out-of-district student entitled to Goss hearing prior to removal and cell phone search unconstitutional

The Sixth Circuit ruled that a school district violated an out-of-district student’s due process rights when it removed him from school without providing him with a pre-expulsion hearing, and violated his search and seizure rights when a school administrator viewed text messages on his cell phone that had been properly confiscated.

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Student whose cell phone was confiscated and searched has Fourth Amendment claim against school official

A federal district court magistrate in Texas has concluded that a student has stated a valid Fourth Amendment claim against an associate principal who searched the contents of her cell phone after confiscating it on suspicion that the student was using the phone in violation of school district policy. As a result, the magistrate recommended that the associate principal’s motion for summary judgment on the claim, based on qualified immunity, be denied. The magistrate did recommend, however, granting the summary judgment motions of the principal and the school district on the Fourth Amendment claim.

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Mississippi school district settles suit over search of student’s confiscated cell phone

DeSoto County School District (DSCSD) has agreed to settle a suit over the search of the contents of a middle school student’s cell phone that had been confiscated by school officials for violation of the school district’s cell phone policy, reports the Associated Press (AP) in the Clarion Ledger. The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU-MS) on behalf of the student after he was expelled on the grounds the phone contained gang images. As part of the settlement, DSCSD agreed to make a list of prohibited gang signs available at school offices and on its website.

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School officials’ search of student’s confiscated cell phone did not violate Fourth Amendment

A federal district court in Mississippi has ruled that school officials did not violate a student’s Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights when they searched the contents of student’s cell phone after confiscating it pursuant to school district policy prohibiting the possession and use of cell phones at school. It concluded that the individual officials were entitled to qualified immunity from the student’s Fourth Amendment claim. However, the district court ruled that the student had stated a valid due process claim against the school for the disciplinary measures against him based on what was found on the phone during the search.

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Virginia attorney general says searches of students’ cell phones and laptops constitutional with reasonable suspicion

According to an Associated Press report in Education Week, Virginia’s Attorney General (AG) Ken Cuccinelli has issued an advisory opinion stating that seizures and searches of students’ cell phones and laptops by school officials are constitutionally justified if officials have reasonable grounds to suspect that a student has violated school rules or the law. The supervision and operation of schools present ‘special needs’ beyond normal law enforcement and, therefore, a different framework is justified,” Cuccinelli wrote, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a New Jersey case. He also said that any sexually explicit material involving a minor discovered during such searches should be shared only with law enforcement. Such material should not be shared with other school personnel.

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Pennsylvania school district settles student’s “sexting” suit

According to Scranton Times-Tribune, Tunkhannock Area School District (TASD) (through its insurer) has agreed to paid $33,000 to settle a suit that stemmed from a “sexting” incident. The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) on a behalf a high school student identified as N.N. The suit alleged that the school district illegally searched her cell phone, punished her for storing semi-nude pictures of herself on the device, and then referred her case to the Wyoming County district attorney’s office. Under the settlement, the school district denied any liability or wrongdoing but agreed to pay the student and her lawyers to resolve the dispute.

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Washington school district ties proposed policy allowing cell phone searches to compliance with state laws on cyber bullying and sexting

KOMO News reports that Oak Harbor School District (OHSD) is proposing a policy that would allow school officials to search students’ cell phones. OHSD believes the policy is necessary in order for the district to comply with recent state legislation requiring school districts to toughen up on cyber bullying and sexting. The policy would allow school administrators to review anything in a student’s cell phone, including text messages, pictures, and videos.

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