Warrants Needed to Search Mobile Phones

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A recent court ruling in Israel has made it illegal for police to search mobile phones of suspects without a court warrant. The ruling by the Jerusalem District Court puts mobile phones on the same level as computers which already need a warrant before being investigated by the police.

Judge Hana Ben-Ami commented in the ruling, "there is a great deal of similarity from the point of view of the rationale behind the special law governing computers, between the computer and the cell phone in terms of the information stored and the way they operate."

The police and the prosecutors office say that they will comply with the new regulations.

The ruling was prompted by an incident where police searched through mobile phones belonging to suspects involved in a weapons smuggling operation. The police made a record of the text messages in the handset and submitted it as evidence. The defendants lawyers argued that this constituted an illegal search citing the similarity between modern mobile phones and computers.

Judge Ben-Ami said that while she had not been shown proof that the cellphone fitted the defense's description of a computer, it was similar enough to accede to their request.

Ironically, despite the defendants winning their judgment - in this particular prosecution - the evidence will still be allowed as the search warrant the police had at the time included computerized materials."

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Tags: text messages  police  smuggling 

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