Indiana Court of Appeals holds text messages of purported drug dealer based on warrant admissible. Warrant for cell phone following arrest of person possessing quantity indicative of selling not overbroad.

Here, law enforcement sought a warrant to search the cell phone for evidence of the crime of dealing methamphetamine. To support the warrant, the affiant police officer stated that the police found a baggie inside Carter’s co-owned vehicle that contained a substance field-tested to be methamphetamine, with a field weight of 207 grams. The officer added that based on training and experience, methamphetamine is typically purchased in one-gram quantities and that the quantity in the vehicle was consistent with dealing. The police further stated that another baggie in the vehicle contained an amount of heroin consistent with dealing.

Regarding the cell phone, the officer stated that the phone was recovered from the defendant, and that those involved in drug activity primarily use cell phones and electronic devices to communicate with one another through calls, texts, and apps like Facebook.

The court decided that this was enough for a warrant to search the contents of the phone.

The defendant also asserted that the warrant was overbroad, especially given that the download resulted in a document over a thousand pages in length. The defendant argued this rendered the warrant an impermissible general warrant, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Riley.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected this argument, holding that the defendant failed to demonstrate
any other way to practically conduct the permitted search. The Court also held that a broad clause allowing looking for indicia of ownership of the phone did not invalidate the more specific clauses looking for e.g. specific text messages.

The case is Carter v. State, 2018 Ind. App. LEXIS 234, 2018 WL 3153650 (June 28)

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