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Convictions Overturned

Posted on 28th February 2014 at 17:04

In a pair of 5-4 rulings, the Washington Supreme Court is throwing out a pair of convictions from Cowlitz County Superior Court, ruling that private text messages that detectives used to set up arrests were private conversations, and that police should not have been reading them. The cases date back to 2009, when Daniel Lee was arrested for heroin possession. Detectives also seized Lee’s phone, which was still receiving text messages. Detectives responded to those messages, setting up meetings that led to the arrests of Jonathan Roden and Shawn Daniel Hinton. Both men were eventually convicted of attempted heroin possession. Writing the majority opinion for both cases, Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez says that the men had an expectation of privacy in those text messages, the same as if they had sent a sealed letter through the mail. He says that those messages shouldn’t be read by police, unless they have a warrant. It’s unclear how these rulings will affect other convictions through similar means; local prosecutors say that those will have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Arguments in a similar case will be heard by the U. S. Supreme Court in April.