Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cell Phone Photo Corroborates Drug Tip

An Indiana court recently held that a photograph taken on a cell phone can corroborate a child's allegation of drug dealing by her mother's boyfriend. The case is Hurst v. State.

The child told her father that her mother's boyfriend was dealing marijuana. The child texted a photograph to her dad of marijuana in the home. The father contacted the police and showed the texted photograph to an officer. Based on the information from the child and the photograph, the police obtained a search warrant. Marijuana was charged and the defendant (mother's boyfriend) was charged with dealing and possession.

The defendant tried to suggest that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause, because, in part, the information reported by the father was not corroborated. (The police had, it turned out, spoken to the child, but this information was not included in the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant.) The court disagreed, holding that the "texted photograph viewed by the officers corroborated [the father's report.]

I mention this case because the court seemed to suggest that the cell phone photograph was especially reliable because the "date and time information . . . indicated that the picture had been taken recently." A lot of cell phones now also capture location information with then photographs, so I expect that law enforcement will seek to use this data to support probable cause in the future.

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