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Do Deputies Need a Warrant to Search Justin Bieber's Cell Phone?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 22, 2014 11:18 AM

Justin Bieber is still under scrutiny for the alleged egging of a neighbor's house. As part of their probe, investigators want to search his cell phone.

The Biebs gave Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies the cold shoulder when they raided his home on a search warrant last week, and now the authorities may need yet another warrant to get to the pop star's texts, reports TMZ.

Do the cops have a right to crack into that Bieber phone?

Bieber Says No-No to Po-Po

Deputies searched Bieber's home January 14 on the strength of a warrant based on an egg-throwing vandalism incident. The warrant likely allowed officers to comb through Casa de Bieber looking for evidence that Bieber or any of his crew were involved in egging a neighbor's home.

During the search, deputies seized Bieber's cell phone and asked if they could view his text messages -- to see if "he bragged about the egging of his neighbor's home," according to TMZ. Officers would be allowed to search and seize possible evidence of vandalism in Chez Bieber included in the warrant, but any evidence seized or searched outside the scope of the warrant would be illegal.

This means that deputies may need to get a second warrant to allow them to crack into Bieber's phone and wrench out its sweet text message innards.

Can Cops Read Your Text Messages?

Bieber's cell phone issue is actually on the forefront of a very unsettled issue of law: whether law enforcement officers can search a cell phone without a warrant. Many state and federal courts have said no, but California's Supreme Court said yes in 2011.

The California decision dealt specifically with searching cell phones that are seized as part of a search incident to arrest, allowing officers to find a cell phone on an arrestee and automatically search it without a warrant.

Bieber wasn't arrested during the search of his home; his phone was simply seized as part of a search warrant, so this ruling may not apply to him. However, the issue is currently en route to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may decide whether or not law enforcement agents may perform warrantless cell phone searches, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Deputies don't necessarily need to get into Bieber's actual cell phone to look at his texts; they could potentially request a warrant from his cell carrier. So stay tuned.

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