State v. Patino

EFF submitted an amicus brief to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, arguing that people have an expectation of privacy in text message conversations, regardless of whether that conversation is stored on the their own phone or someone else's.

Police responded to a 911 call that a child in an apartment had stopped breathing. Once the child was en route to the hospital, police began looking through a cell phone left on the kitchen counter that belonged to the boy's mother. They found text messages between the mother and her boyfriend, defendant Michael Patino, that led the police to suspect Patino caused the child's injuries. Patino was eventually charged with the boy's murder, but the trial court found the warrantless search of the cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment and state constitution, and suppressed the texts.

The state appealed to the high court and in June 2014, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reversed, finding Patino did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in texts on someone else's phone.

Mark Pogue of Edwards Wildman Palmer, LLP served as our local counsel.

State: 

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