It is the policy of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to prohibit bias based profiling in all Law Enforcement-initiated actions. These include all investigative detentions, field contacts, traffic contacts, arrests, searches, asset seizures and forfeiture efforts. A deputy’s actions will be based on a standard of reasonable suspicion or probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and statutory authority. Deputies must be able to articulate specific facts, circumstances and conclusions, which support reasonable suspicion for an investigative detention or traffic stop, or probable cause for arrest. Deputies shall not consider race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender identity or sexual orientation in establishing either reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or as a basis for requesting consent to search.

Police brutality includes illegal search and seizure activities.  Technology has negatively influenced the way police officers view drivers and their actions, as they affect driver responsibility on roadways, causing more accidents related to cellular phone use. If you are involved in a traffic incident that caused damages enough for you to be arrested at the scene, the police may take your phone at the time of the arrest, as part of your personal possessions.  If they search your phone in the hopes of finding incriminating evidence like a text sent at the time of the incident, it is not legal unless they have a warrant to do so at that point.  If the traffic incident you caused resulted in a death, or great personal injury to another person, then it is possible your cellular phone information will become evidence as the case develops.

Florida Statute 316.305 Wireless communications devices; prohibition.

Section. (3)(a)  A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data 1on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.

If you are involved in a traffic accident because you were texting while driving, depending on the circumstances of the accident your action may have caused, you can be arrested, and your phone may be seized if it is part of your personal property.

 Florida Statute 316.305 Wireless communications devices; prohibition.

Section. (5)  Enforcement of this section by state or local law enforcement agencies must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another provision of this chapter, chapter 320, or chapter 322.

If you are pulled over and asked to turn over your cellular phone to a police officer in Sumter County Florida so they can search your recent phone activity, because they may have seen you texting and driving, then you may be a victim of police brutality. 

Distracted Driving Peaking a Police Officer’s Interest to Pull Driver Over.

There are three types of distracted driving that may alert a police officer to pay attention to you while you are driving.  They include: 1) visual – looking at phone instead of roadways and vehicles around you, 2) manual – taking hands off the wheel while you type could slow reaction time, and 3) cognitive – becoming emotionally involved in a conversation, and not paying attention to the driving environment.  Current Florida law restricts the use of cellular phones while driving to include: texting or typing with any handheld device; and reading data on an electronic device.  A Florida driver can use a cellular phone to: report an accident or emergency; receive navigation information; receive weather alerts and traffic information.

Florida Precedent for Cellular Phone Searches in Florida.
Based on findings in a Florida Supreme Court case, Smallwood v. State case, 113 So. 3rd 724 (Fla. 2013) the Plaintiff in this case, Smallwood sued the state for violation of Fourth Amendment rights after his phone was seized that was not on his person when he was arrested for allegedly committing a robbery.  The police at that time went through the phone and found incriminating pictures. This was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because it was not a proper search and seizure activity.  The Florida Supreme Court, in a 5 to 2 decision, held that, because cell phones allow access to a huge amount of personal information belonging to the cell phone’s owner, if law enforcement were allowed to search an arrestee’s cell phone without a warrant, it is similar to allowing them to search the home, or office of the arrestee and look through his file cabinets or desk, remotely accessing his bank accounts and/or medical records without a search warrant. The Court held “[W]e refuse to authorize government intrusion into the most private and personal details of an arrestee’s life without a search warrant simply because the cellular phone device which stores that information is small enough to be carried on one’s person.” The Florida Supreme Court further held that such searches are not justified by either a concern for officer safety or concern for evidence preservation and are therefore unconstitutional.

The conclusion was that law enforcement could take physical possession of Smallwood’s electronic device used as a phone as part of the search incident to the arrest because the device was present on Smallwood’s body. However, once the electronic, computer-like device was removed from Smallwood’s person, there was no possibility that Smallwood could use the device as a weapon, nor could he have destroyed any evidence that may have existed on the phone. Accordingly, neither the officer protection nor the evidence preservation justification for the warrant exception applied in the Smallwood case, and law enforcement is constitutionally required to obtain a warrant before searching the contents of, and the data in someone’s cell phone. Other jurisdictions may not follow the Florida law, and it may be legal in those areas to search a cell phone without a warrant.

Since 2013, there has been an increase in crimes where cellular phones may hold the key to proving guilt or innocence of a person, but proper procedure must be followed regarding search and seizure activities in the State of Florida.  If you believe you have had your cellular phone taken without cause, and searched, that is a form of police brutality, and you should immediately seek out knowledgeable legal professionals to help you with your case. Know your driving rights in Florida before you engage in cellular phone activities while driving.  Consider the incident you are involved in, if police seize your phone; and know that it is in their right to take your phone if it is on your person if you are arrested, but not search it unless they have a warrant.

Sources:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/316.305

https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/241636/2134647/sc11-1130.pdf

http://sumtercountysheriff.org/insidescso/profiling.php