Splitting up from your partner is usually a tricky road to drive on, one that’s made trickier by the question of whether, even if you are sharing custody, you retain control over your child’s devices. Texas resident Ronald Jackson found out about that issue the hard way, though the end result was in his favor, reports WFAA.
Back in September 2013, Jackson found inappropriate text messages on his daughter’s iPhone 4 and confiscated the device. Fast forward a few hours, and Michelle Steppe, Jackson’s ex-partner, the child’s mother, asserted that she had purchased the iPhone, and called the police to report a theft. The police visited Jackson’s house.
However, instead of handing over the confiscated iPhone, Jackson refused to give it to the police, saying the police couldn’t “interfere with my ability to parent my daughter.”
Unsurprisingly, Steppe wasn’t thrilled with Jackson’s reaction and managed to cause a citation for theft of property less than $50 in value, a Class C misdemeanor, to be sent to his doorstep. The city attorney’s office was initially willing to offer a plea deal to Jackson, which entailed that he return his daughter’s iPhone 4 to her. Jackson did not back down, and instead hired an attorney and requested a jury trial. The city attorney’s office responded by refiling the case as a rougher Class B misdemeanor, which carries a $2,000 fine and possible jail time for the offender.
As a result of this escalation, police issued a warrant for Jackson’s arrest, and he was arrested at his home in April 2015. He posted $1,500 cash as bail to avoid sitting in a jail cell until proceedings moved forward.
Ultimately, Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Lisa Green sided with Jackson. According to Judge Green, there wasn’t enough evidence provided by the state to move forward with the case, which charged Jackson with theft of property of at least $50 but less than $500. For her part, Steppe argued that someone “can’t take someone’s property, regardless if you’re a parent or not.”
More specifically, Steppe asserted that she bought the iPhone 4 and maintains the plan associated with it under her name, leaving her confused by the verdict. “Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it’s not yours,” said Steppe. “Someone can take it from you.”
Unfortunately for Jackson, even though he won the case, he may have lost one of, if not the, most important thing you can have as a parent: his relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile, Jackson’s attorney plans to file a federal complaint for civil rights violations.
Oh, and Jackson still has his daughter’s iPhone 4. Victory, thy name is Jackson?