My friend is on misdemeanor probation and was recently part of a sting operation (if you will) where they (probationers) were brought in under the pretense of a random drug screen but instead their cell phones were rounded up and their text messages were read and used as evidence and several were jailed. Is this not a violation of basic civil rights or do they forfeit all rights while on probation? Infractions such as being in a relationship with another probationer and texting AA meeting topics was the basis for sending these people to jail. I cannot believe this sort of invasion is legal, however I don't profess to know the laws governing probation. I was also told that I can legally be searched, as well as my phone, if I am in the car with her and we are pulled over. Is this true?
That is an interesting situation and sounds like something that would be on a law school exam. Issues regarding privacy that involves new technology, such as cell phones, GPS, etc, has been really developing in the last few years. It has been, generally, in favor of protecting the defendant's privacy rights and against such invasions. However, the probation issue causes a real concern. While on probation, many of your privacy rights are given up as a condition. How far does that go? I believe that is still debatable.
This is not intended as individual legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship established by this answer. It is advisable that you seek individualized legal assistance. This is not a substitute for hiring an attorney.
Usually a part of being on probation means that you consent to random searches. Whether or not that includes text messages is an interesting question with technology becoming so much more advanced. I would probably guess yes. As for yourself, merely being in the presence of a person on probation does not mean you are giving up your constitutional rights and would not be grounds for a warrantless search.
His text messages probably can be searched. A term of probation is you waive your Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure. You can pretty much be searched anytime and anywhere while on probation.
James L. Yeargan, Jr. is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. All information given is based only on Georgia law, and is not directly applicable to any other jurisdictions, states, or districts. Any answer given assumes the person who asked the question holds a Georgia Drivers License, and this license is not a commercial drivers license (CDL). This response, or any response, is not legal advice. This response, or any response, does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information. Any state specific concerns should be directed to an attorney who is licensed to practice law in that respective state.
Whether the cell phone can be searched depends on whether a 4th Amendment waiver is part of probation. There would need to be more evidence than discussing AA and a relationship with another probationer to revoke someone's probation.
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