Cops can search mobile phones - only if they're not password-protected

A provincial appeals court in Canada has ruled that police can search the mobile phone of an arrested person only if there is no password on that phone. With a digital locking mechanism, however, officers must get a warrant.

“In this case, it is significant that the cell phone was apparently not password protected or otherwise ‘locked’ to users other than the appellant when it was seized,” the Court of Appeal for Ontario, wrote in its unanimous decision. “Furthermore, the police had a reasonable belief that it would contain relevant evidence.”

The case revolves around a woman operating a jewelry stall on July 26, 2009 at a flea market in Toronto’s Downsview neighborhood. Toward the end of the day, as Araksi Nar was packing up, she was held at gunpoint by two men and was ordered to open her car. The men took an estimated CAD$10,000 ($9,800) to CAD$40,000 ($39,200) worth of jewelry.