Police Violate Law When They Impersonate a Suspect on Cell Phone

The California Appelas Court has ruled that a suspect’s rights were violated when an officer pretended to be someone else on a cell phone. The facts in the case were as follows: The police were patrolling a highway near the Mexican border which was known for alien smuggling. Based on the accused’s driving behavior, the police officers took notice of him. When the suspect pulled to the side of the road, the officers stopped behind him. They asked him some questions about where he was going. Noticing several cell phones in the driver’s car, the officer asked to search them and driver consented. On two occasions during the search, one of the phones rang and the officer answered it, impersonating the defendant. The information obtained resulted in the defendant’s prosecution under federal law for alien smuggling. He appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. The appeals Court agreed that rights were violated. Preliminarily, the court rejected the government’s assertion Lopez lacked standing to raise the motion because he denied the phones were his. The phones were in his possession and being used by him. He responded to the officer’s question by denying the phones were his but did not further attempt to disassociate himself from the phones. As to the scope of the consent given to search, the question is what the typical person would have understood by the exchange between the suspect and the officer – in other words, a search pursuant to consent is limited by the extent of the consent given. A person who consents to the search of his phone does not thereby also consent to the government answering incoming calls, impersonating him and carrying on conversations in his name. Rather, specific consent to answer is required

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV.
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