Judge: Don’t expect privacy if you leave your phone at a crime scene

Smartphone-Future-0001 how to reduce your data usage
If a tree falls in the middle of the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Sure, why not? If you leave your phone behind while you are running away from a crime scene and your name is Matthew Muller, are you entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy? According to a California federal judge, the answer is no, reports The Sacramento Bee.

This all started in 2015 when authorities found a Samsung Galaxy phone at the scene of a home burglary in Dublin, California. Authorities were able to get the phone’s actual number using 911’s caller ID, though Verizon asked to see a warrant when police asked Big Red to find out who the number belonged to. Police managed to get a warrant within a few hours and tracked down Muller after finding out the number was registered to his stepfather.

Interestingly, police found materials related to a separate kidnapping case while executing the arrest. In that case, Denise Huskins was kidnapped from the home of her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, in Vallejo, California, in March 2015. Quinn was instructed to deliver $17,000 in two ransom payments to the kidnapper. Authorities believed the kidnapping story to be a hoax, since Huskins did not show up for a flight to Northern California in order to speak with the police. However, it was after the kidnapper called the Vallejo Police Department confirming the story and both Huskins and Quinn took to the media that police believed that Huskins was a victim of kidnapping. The couple are suing Vallejo officials over the ordeal.

As such, when Muller was eventually found and arrested on June 5, 2015, not only was he arrested for the burglary, but for the kidnapping as well. Muller pleaded to the burglary charge, but denied any knowledge of the kidnapping.

A reasonable expectation of privacy?

Thomas Johnson, Muller’s lawyer, wants all evidence against Muller thrown out. According to Johnson, when authorities got Muller’s phone number by dialing 911, that constituted an illegal search, particularly since Muller did not intentionally leave his phone behind. As such, it violated Muller’s Fourth Amendment right of being free of unreasonable searches and seizures. Johnson used Riley v. California as an example, since the case made it unconstitutional to search a phone without a warrant unless it was an exigent circumstance, such as abductions and bomb plots.

However, federal prosecutors do not agree with Johnson, arguing that “a burglar has no reasonable expectation of privacy in something he places in an intruded-upon house.” Furthermore, the police only used the phone to dial 911 and waited until the warrant was granted to search it, argued prosecutors. Finally, prosecutors did not believe that Riley v. California applies, since that case was concerned with the search of a phone at the time of arrest.

With the final say in the matter, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley sided with the prosecutors, saying that Muller leaving the phone behind was the definition of abandonment. The judge also said that there is an exception, since the officer established exigent circumstances.

“I simply can’t buy the argument that a person violently assaults some homeowners and then goes back: ‘Can I get my phone back please?’ Assuming that it wasn’t abandoned, if this is a search, then there is an exception because the office did establish exigent circumstances,” said Judge Nunley.

Muller’s trial is scheduled for January 30, 2017.


Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.
Smart Home

These are the 13 best games to play on your new Google Home

Google Home is a handy device, but did you know you can play games with it? There are a ton to play, and we tested them all. Here are some of favorites that you can play on your Google Home device.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Need a minute to yourself? Buy some alone time with the best tablets for kids

Looking to keep those tiny fingers and brains busy? Tablets aren’t just for grown-ups, and many are kid-friendly! Here's our list of the best tablets for kids, with parental controls and plenty of tempting features to satisfy your…

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.

Before buying a Fitbit, check out these Garmin fitness trackers under $100

The Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker, but it's not cheap. Thankfully, there are plenty of fitness trackers under $100, and they offer many of the same features. Here are the best fitness trackers under $100.

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Health & Fitness

Google’s redesigned Fit activity tracker is now an iOS app

Google Fit has landed for iOS. The activity tracker offers the same clean design that arrived with the major revamp of the Android version a year ago, with features such as Move Minutes and Heart Points also included.

Stunning photo shows Honor 20 will get the full Moschino designer treatment

Honor will launch the Honor 20 on May 21, at an event taking place in London. A special Moschino version will also be revealed, potentially with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.

Leak says Huawei will supply 5G equipment to the U.K., but with a caveat

A leak from the U.K.'s National Security Council says Huawei has been approved to supply certain 5G infrastructure equipment, but not the core components related to secure aspects of the network.

Google Assistant for Android and iOS wants to tell you a story

Just in time for National Tell a Story Day on April 27, Google has added the ability for Google Assistant for iOS and Android to read you a story. So now there's no excuse for not catching up with a good book.

Here's how much it will cost to buy the Galaxy S10 5G, and when it releases

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it will be the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.

Verizon reveals 20 new cities that will get its 5G network in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it has also begun deploying mobile 5G. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network, including when it will be in your town.