Switch to ADA Accessible Website
Orlando Criminal Lawyer

Florida Jury Finds That Officers Cannot Seize Accident Bystanders’ Cell Phones for Evidence


An important decision to come out of Martin County, Florida in early October could have statewide implications for establishing limitations on law enforcement’s ability to collect smart phones in roadside contexts. The jury decided that a deputy violated a resident’s civil rights when he grabbed a bystander’s cell phone and told him that any photos taken could be used by the state as evidence.

In this instance, the bystander pulled over after seeing a serious crash with the intention of providing assistance. According to reports, once that rescue crews arrived, he, instead, took pictures of the incident, when the officer in question approached him and seized his phone without first obtaining consent or a warrant. When the bystander was told to leave without his phone, and refused to do so, he was then arrested.

 4th Amendment Violations & Use of Excessive Force by Police

As a result, the bystander filed suit, claiming that the Sheriff’s Office violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search and seizure by collecting his smart phone without consent or a search warrant. The jury agreed with him, also finding that not only was the bystander’s arrest illegal, but that the deputy had used unnecessarily excessive force by purposely placing handcuffs on him so as to inflict pain, as well as denying him access to air conditioning while he was in the car.

Sadly, this officer’s conduct is not an isolated incident, but rather, part of a disturbing trend, where law enforcement officers believe that they have unlimited power and control over any and all recordings made in public and the devices used for recording. And yet, cell phones contain a significant amount of private information about all of us, and law enforcement should not – under any circumstance – be able to search and seize this information without any restriction. As a general rule, officers can only look at your phone if they have your consent or a search warrant, as provided by a judge and based on probable cause.

Some Claims Can Now Be Reopened

In addition, as a result of the jury’s finding, a number of claims against the sheriff’s office alleging violations of civil rights – including those involving First Amendment rights to document an event in a public place, false arrest and mistreatment—can now be appealed to be reopened.

Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorneys

If a law enforcement officer has exceeded his or her authority, you have the right to seek justice—not only to vindicate your own rights, but also in furtherance of the rights of everyone else who has been wronged by police abuse. Contact our experienced Florida criminal attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help ensure that your rights are protected.



  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Miami Office

1200 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1410
Miami, FL 33131
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111

Orlando Office

250 N Orange Ave, Suite 750
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms
Please review the highlighted fields. They are required.
DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2024 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab Contact Form Tab