Governor Chafee Vetoes Cell Phone Search Warrant Bill

As reported by Katie Mulvaney in the June 27, 2012 edition of the Providence Journal, Governor Chafee vetoed a bill which would require police to obtain a search warrant to search cell phones and other electronics. The bill did allow for exceptions to the search warrant requirement in specific situations such as public safety or a loss of evidence. Although not law binding, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association stated it already requests search warrants to search cell phones.

Pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws 12-5-2, warrants can be issued for the following reasons:

A warrant may be issued under this chapter to search for and seize any of the following:

(1) Property stolen or embezzled, or obtained by any false pretense, or pretenses, with intent to cheat or defraud within this state, or elsewhere;

(2) Property kept, suffered to be kept, concealed, deposited, or possessed in violation of law, or for the purpose of violating the law;

(3) Property designed or intended for use, or which is or has been used, in violation of law, or as a means of committing a violation of law;

(4) Property which is evidence of the commission of a crime; or

(5) Samples of blood, saliva, hair, bodily tissues, bodily fluids, or dental impressions from the body of a person, that may yield evidence of the identity of the perpetrator of a crime when subjected to scientific or other forensic analysis. The foregoing samples, and the results of any scientific or other forensic analysis, shall be admissible in all criminal proceedings, subject to application of the rules of evidence and criminal procedure. When any of the foregoing samples are seized for scientific or forensic analysis, the seizure shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations, guidelines, or protocols of the department of health or the state crime laboratory, as may be appropriate under the circumstances; or

(6) Samples of blood or breath that may yield evidence of the presence of alcohol or a controlled substance when subjected to a chemical test, as contemplated in § 31-27-2. When any of the foregoing samples are seized for purposes of performing the aforementioned chemical test, the seizure shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations of the department of health that apply to the consensual collection of such a sample for purposes of the chemical test contemplated by Rhode Island general laws § 31-27-2.

Rhode Island General Laws 12-5-10 specifically provides for search warrants for electronic communications, based on probable cause, a warrant may be issued to corporations located outside the state of Rhode Island that provide electronic communication services to the general public in connection with any communications sent to or received by customers or recipients located in Rhode Island. The warrant may require the provision of customer identity, data stored by or on behalf of the customer, the customer's usage of those services, the recipient or destination of communications sent to or from those customers, or the content of those communications.

(b) Any warrant issued under this section shall be honored within the state of Rhode Island and also in any foreign jurisdiction which has any law in place providing for the honoring of such warrants.

If you or a family member has been charged with a criminal offense involving a search warrant, such as, larceny or receiving stolen goods, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Attorney Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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