Legal Memorandum: Search of a Memory Card in a Digital Camera

Issue: If a digital camera constitutes a container, do police have probable grounds to use the a camera to search the memory card seized incident to the arrest?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Probable cause; Warrantless search; Memory card in a digital camera
Jurisdiction: Florida
Cited Cases: 607 So. 2d 454; 588 F.2d 147
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2007

No authority was located addressing whether police may use one item seized from a defendant’s vehicle (i.e., a digital camera) to aid in the search of a second item (i.e., pictures on a memory card) seized from the defendant’s person.

However, there is authority that may be helpful that emphasizes the distinction between “seizure” and “search.”  It holds that once closed luggage of an arrestee has been properly seized from a vehicle incident to an arrest and reduced to the “exclusive control” of the arresting officers, an immediate search of the luggage is no longer necessary or permissible, and the police must obtain a warrant prior to searching the contents of the luggage “or similar personal property.”

·         United States v. Johnson, 588 F.2d 147, 151‑53 (5th Cir. 1979).

However, subsequent cases cast doubt on the continued validity of this holding in Johnson.

·         California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991),

·         Gay v. State, 607 So. 2d 454 (Fla. 1st Dist. Ct. App. 1992).


Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)