The ACLU filed suit today against the City of San Francisco and its police chief over what they say was an illegal search of a man's cell phone in the Castro's Jane Warner Plaza in January, 2012. The case involves Bob Offer-Westort, a former employee at the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, who pitched a tent in the plaza as an act of protest against a Wiener-backed ordinance against camping. Upon his arrest, police seized his cell phone, and "began scrolling through Offer-Westort’s text messages and reading them out loud."
Offer-Westort claims that police continued to read his text messages over the next six months before returning the phone to him. Both constitute a violation of civil rights and right to privacy, according to the suit.
As NBC Bay Area reports, the suit is the first of its kind in California, and echoes a 2011 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed warrantless cell phone searches legal under the Fourth Amendment.
The ACLU, in its new suit, argues that such searches are illegal under the California constitution's stronger privacy protections.