PEOPLE v. DIAZ
51 Cal.4th 84 (2011)
THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
GREGORY DIAZ, Defendant and Appellant.
Supreme Court of California.
January 3, 2011.
Lyn A. Woodward, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, Donald E. DeNicola, Deputy State Solicitor General, Lawrence M. Daniels, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr., and Victoria B. Wilson, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
We granted review in this case to decide whether the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits law enforcement officers, approximately 90 minutes after lawfully arresting a suspect and transporting him to a detention facility, to conduct a warrantless search of the text message folder of a cell phone they take from his person after the arrest. We hold that, under the United States Supreme Court's binding precedent, such a search is valid as being incident to a lawful custodial arrest. We affirm the Court of Appeal's judgment.FACTUAL BACKGROUND
About 2:50 p.m. on April 25, 2007, Senior Deputy Sheriff Victor Fazio of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department witnessed defendant Gregory Diaz
participating in a police informant's controlled purchase of Ecstasy. Defendant drove the Ecstasy's seller to the location of the sale, which then took place in the backseat of the car defendant was driving. Immediately after the sale, Fazio, who had listened in on the transaction through a wireless transmitter the informant was wearing, stopped the car defendant was driving and arrested defendant for being a coconspirator in the sale of drugs. Six tabs of Ecstasy were seized in connection with the arrest, and a small amount of marijuana was found in defendant's pocket. Defendant had a cell phone on his person.
Fazio transported defendant to a sheriff's station, where a detective seized the cell phone from defendant's person and gave it to Fazio. Fazio put it with the other evidence and, at 4:18 p.m., interviewed defendant. Defendant denied having knowledge of the drug transaction. After the interview, about 4:23 p.m., Fazio looked at the cell phone's text message folder and discovered a message that said "6 4 80."1 Based on his training and experience, Fazio interpreted the message to mean "[s]ix pills of Ecstasy for $80." Within minutes of discovering the message (and less than 30 minutes after the cell phone's discovery), Fazio showed the message to defendant. Defendant then admitted participating in the sale of Ecstasy.
Defendant was charged with selling a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11379, subd. (a)). He pleaded not guilty and moved to suppress the fruits of the cell phone search—the text message and the statements he made when confronted with it—arguing that the warrantless search of the cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied the motion, explaining: "The defendant was under arrest for a felony charge involving the sale of drugs. His property was seized from him. Evidence was seized from him. [¶] . . . [I]ncident to the arrest[,] search of his person and everything that that turned up is really fair game in terms of being evidence of a crime or instrumentality of a crime or whatever the theory might be. And under these circumstances I don't believe there's authority that a warrant was required." Defendant then withdrew his not guilty plea and pleaded guilty to transportation of a controlled substance. The trial court accepted the plea, suspended imposition of sentence, and placed defendant on probation for three years.