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Detective Lawfully Answered Suspect's Cell Phone to Hear Caller Order Cocaine, Information That Lawfully Formed The Basis of a Warrant to Search the Cell Phone

 

"Law enforcement officers in the field must act swiftly in a variety of circumstances," observed Van Hollen, "and today's decision recognizes that an officer is entitled, under the exigent-circumstances doctrine, to answer a suspect's cell-phone call to preserve possible evidence when the officer has independent reason to believe that the call may relate to illegal drug dealing."

 

MADISON - A Milwaukee police detective who, following a traffic stop, saw in plain view an image on Jermichael James Carroll's cell phone of Carroll smoking a marijuana blunt, lawfully answered an incoming call on the cell phone to hear the caller order cocaine from Carroll.  The detective then lawfully used that information to obtain a warrant to search the cell phone, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held in an opinion released today.

 

The search of Carroll's cell phone under warrant revealed an image of Carroll with a firearm, resulting in Carroll being charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling paves the way for that prosecution to proceed.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen applauded the 5-2 decision.  "Law enforcement officers in the field must act swiftly in a variety of circumstances," observed Van Hollen, "and today's decision recognizes that an officer is entitled, under the exigent-circumstances doctrine, to answer a suspect's cell-phone call to preserve possible evidence when the officer has independent reason to believe that the call may relate to illegal drug dealing."

 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision and opinion appears on the court's website:   http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=46694

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the felony case, and Assistant Attorney General James M. Freimuth represented the State in both the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

 

A defendant enjoys the presumption of innocence, and at trial, the State must prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.