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Ontario Court Says Police Can Search Cellphones If There’s No Passcode

The Court of Appeal for Ontario says the right of police to search through your cellphone depends on whether or not you have a passcode, reports the Canadian Press. 

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If a passcode is present, police should get a warrant in order to look through your phone. The decision comes from a case where Kevin Fearon appealed his robbery conviction and argued police breached his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How so? Police looked through his phone after his arrest and discovered photos of a gun, cash and text message evidence linked to his alleged jewellery heist in Toronto at the time, back in 2009.

His appeal was ultimately denied by the Ontario Court of Appeal, as they noted police were allowed to search Fearon’s phone “in a cursory fashion” to look for evidence related to the crime but should have requested a search warrant soon after. If the phone had a passcode, the judges noted “it would not have been appropriate” to look through the phone without a warrant.

“There was no suggestion in this case that this particular cell phone functioned as a ‘mini-computer’ nor that its contents were not ‘immediately visible to the eye,’ the court said in its ruling, released Wednesday.

“Rather, because the phone was not password protected, the photos and the text message were readily available to other users.”

Appeal Court judges referred to a precedent set in a former murder trial where the judge did not permit evident from a personal electronic device as it “functioned as a mini-computer,” known to have a high expectation of privacy. In that case, data was extracted by police using specialized equipment. The court declined to create a new specific rule for cellphone searches saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

For those without passcodes on their iPhones, you should be saying to yourself right now “note to self: set a passcode.”

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • FragilityG4

    Don’t commit a crime and you’ll be fine.

  • tom

    I don’t use a passcode.

  • tom@tom.com

    Thanks Tom

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    True

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Yeah I know some people who don’t but you’ll be wishing you had one if you happen to lose your phone.

  • http://twitter.com/bryandobson Bryan Dobson

    Or anything in the future the Government might suddenly decide to make a crime either. Then you’re safe. Probably.

  • gtasscarlo

    Hey, if the police see your front door is open; they can just come in and search through your stuff right. No big deal right?.

  • mrideas

    Ya not worried about the police looking at my phone. More worried about losing it and having some scumbag use it or steal the info in it. Gary hope those with a Passcode also have it set to erase the phone if the wrong code is entered too many times too!

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Yep. The information is more important. The erase phone toggle should always be turned on!

  • FragilityG4

    If they have a reason I guess they would … Back to my original point “Don’t commit a crime and you’ll be fine.”

  • gtasscarlo

    Good for you. Do whatever the police tell you. I guess the Charter of rights and freedom doesn’t matter to you.

  • s

    Never forget that everything that happened in Germany during the 2nd WW was legal.

  • Brian

    Every single person on the planet can be found to be committing a crime if you look hard enough. Or fabricate it after the fact. Not uncommon. If you think precedents like this are only for “finding bad guys” then you’re clueless. It’s about removing freedom and gaining power through fear.

  • FragilityG4

    You guys are thinking about this way too much … More than 90% of the population will never have a run in with the law … Relax.

  • Jon

    That’s a poor excuse to do nothing. Less than 5% of the population will be murdered so should we just make it legal? Come on! Part of me says the police should be allowed but the other says the line stops at the home screen. Just because no one mention the phone was used as a pc doesn’t mean it wasn’t.

  • FragilityG4

    Your analogy holds no water. At the boarder they can seize and search your electronics with no reason … Relax. I can’t stress it enough — If don’t commit a crime you’ll be fine.
    Stop worrying about everyone else and focus on yourself … You think the people you’re worrying about will worry about you? Relax.

  • FragilityG4

    If you’re that concern put a pass code on your phone and be done with it. Geez some people on this site are professional complainers.

  • FragilityG4

    If you don’t give them a reason to need to search your phone you’ll be fine. Relax.

    Stop whining over the Charter Of Rights like you’ve read the whole thing and know it inside out. Geez such a lame duck argument.

  • Tombfyre

    I wonder if them using the passcode bypass bug counts as you not having a passcode? I mean it’s not their fault that your security was compromised.

  • FragilityG4

    Your ignorant if you’re comparing this to what happened in Nazi Germany … No sorry you’re stupid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mo.mouney MO Mouney

    fuck the cops a clear violations of rights, i always have a lock on my crackberry to ensure my privacy rights which are dwindling slowly

  • http://www.facebook.com/mo.mouney MO Mouney

    hes a tool dont bother with him if his authorities told him to bend over and take it up the rear he would say the same thing lol

  • gtasscarlo

    I wouldn’t be surprised, people like that obey police. Just because the notion of police, he thinks there all good and not one is out there to bust him. I seen cops try and fabricate lies just to put you in jail. So the whole notion of the bad guy is ridiculous.