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Justices: People Have Right To Privacy In Texts

Gene Johnson, Associated Press
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File photo of a judge and gavel in a courtroom.  (Credit: Chris Ryan/Getty Images)

File photo of a judge and gavel in a courtroom. (Credit: Chris Ryan/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (AP) — Washington’s Supreme Court says people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the text messages they send from their phones — even if they can’t know for sure who might be reading them.

In related 5-4 opinions Thursday, the justices overturned two Cowlitz County heroin convictions. After arresting Daniel Lee in 2009, Longview police read text messages on Lee’s cell phone without a warrant and posed as him to set up meetings at which they arrested two men for attempted heroin possession.

Writing for the majority in both cases, Justice Steven Gonzalez said the men had an expectation of privacy in the content of their text messages, just as they would have if they sent a sealed letter or made a phone call. Washington state citizens have an expectation that their text messages won’t be read by police without a warrant. The court struck down one of the convictions under the state privacy act and the other under the state constitution.

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