#CyberFLASH: BC’s highest court hears whether police need warrant to search smartphones

image-3Recent changes in the law requiring police to obtain search warrants before examining the contents of smartphones shouldn’t apply to older, less-advanced cellphones, a Crown lawyer told British Columbia’s highest court Tuesday.

The B.C. Court of Appeal is examining whether it was legal for the RCMP to search two BlackBerry phones seized from a suspect following a 2006 kidnapping in Richmond, near Vancouver.

Investigators didn’t get a warrant before sending the phones, which were protected by passwords, to a technical lab in Ottawa. Text messages recovered from the phones contributed to the conviction of Rajan Singh Mann, who is now appealing.

Several recent decisions, including one last year from the Supreme Court of Canada, have concluded police must treat today’s smartphones — which can hold immense amounts of emails, photos and other documents — in the same way as a computer. That would mean investigators would require a search warrant before sifting through the contents of the cellphones.

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