Can a police officer text off of a confiscated cell phone pretending to be the owner of the phone?

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Can a police officer text off of a confiscated cell phone pretending to be the owner of the phone?

Someone I know received text messages from who they assumed was their friend when in fact a police officer had obtained that phone and was impersonating the owner of the phone; he never identified themselves as a police officer in hopes of obtaining information from the person who they were texting. Can a police officer text off someone’s phone without identifying themselves? The police officer then erased all messages that they had texted and erased the messages of the person I know who they were texting. Is this legal?

Asked on July 14, 2011 under Criminal Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Good question. How was the the cell phone confiscated? Through an arrest? Potentially the claimed texting by the police officer on the confiscated cell phone to the third party was part of a police investigation of a crime.

How do you know that a police officer had obtained the cell phone and was trying to obtain information via texting? From a practical point of view,if in fact the police officer was using a properly confiscated cell phone obtained ia an arrest or search warrent issued by a judge as part of a continued investigation of a specific crime,the texting on the confiscated cell phone to a third party pretending to be the owner of the phone with the intent to obtain information would appear to be allowable.

When one texts, he or she really has no expectation of privacy that the transmission will not be shown to a person other than the intended recipient. For that matter, when one receives a text, how does that person really know the person sending the text is the person who has the cell phone?


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