In a unanimous decision, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday that the police overstepped when an officer warrantlessly searched the phone belonging to a man who had been an overnight guest at a female neighbor’s apartment.
According to the 10-page opinion, Tucson police were called when the woman, referred to as “D.C.,” was found unresponsive in bed by her daughter. D.C. had been dating the man who lived next door, Robin Peoples, for a few months, and she had invited him to spend the night. The next morning, while Peoples was in the bathroom, D.C.’s daughter, who lived in the same apartment complex as her mother, arrived. When her mother did not respond, the unnamed daughter called 911.
Peoples ran from the apartment to direct paramedics, but inadvertently left his phone behind. Paramedics arrived and began tending to D.C., but soon after pronounced her dead. Peoples “sought solace,” according to the opinion, at a neighbor’s apartment.
The opinion continued:
Tucson Police Officer Travis Mott came to D.C.’s apartment after she was pronounced dead. He looked for information that might identify D.C.’s doctor, hoping the doctor could shed light on D.C.’s recent health and sign the death certificate. He found a “smart” cell phone in the bathroom. Assuming the phone belonged to D.C., the officer turned it on and opened it with a finger swipe to search her contacts (it was not passcode protected). A paused video-image of D.C. on her back in bed, mostly naked, appeared on the screen. The officer …