State v. Lowell

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 12-09-2015
  • Case #: A151865
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Egan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress text messages was improper, because the Fourth Amendment search incident to arrest exception does not apply to digital data stored on cell phones. Reversed and remanded.

Defendant appealed denial of motion to suppress evidence which resulted in his guilty plea to delivery of marijuana for consideration (ORS 475.860). Following a bicycle accident, Defendant was told by police officer to go to hospital. Once there, a second officer arrived, smelled marijuana in the hospital room, asked for and obtained consent to search Defendant’s backpack, where he found marijuana and other paraphernalia, and searched Defendant’s cell phone and found incriminating text messages. Defendant argued that the first officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights and “seized” him by compelling Defendant to go to the hospital. The Court held that any seizure that may have occurred was ended when Defendant signed a treatment consent form with the officer no longer present. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the Court held that the trial court did not err when it admitted the Defendant’s statements and physical evidence from the hospital. The Court also indicated that a hospital room in itself is not a compelling environment. The Court further held that the text messages on Defendant’s cell phone were improperly admitted using the same analysis as was used for Defendant’s statements and physical items in his backpack. The Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley, which held that the search incident to arrest exception under the Fourth Amendment categorically does not apply to digital data stored on cell phones. Reversed and remanded.

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