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City of Ontario v. Quon

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Citation Edit

City of Ontario, Cal. v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Quon was a police officer in the Ontario Police Department ("OPD"). During this time the OPD contracted with a telephone service provider for the use of alphanumeric pagers by its officers. Arch Wireless ("Arch"), the service provider, set a limit on the number of characters that could be sent within the plan, with an overage charge for any amount above this limit. When Quon, as well as other officers, exceeded their monthly limit several months in a row, the Ontario Chief of Police, Scharf, sought to determine the cause of this overage.

The reason given by OPD was that the Department did not want to charge officers additional fees for necessary work-related messages, so if the overages were for legitimate purposes the department wanted to raise the limit. If on the other hand, the messages were personal in nature then the department would leave the limit as it was and have the officers just pay the additional fees. When Arch provided Scharf with transcripts of several months of messages, Scharf determined that most of the messages that Quon was sending and receiving were not work-related and some were sexually explicit. The OPD internal affairs division determined that these messages were in violation of OPD rules and Quon was subsequently disciplined. Quon and his fellow officers sued the City of Ontario for violation of their fourth amendment rights as well as suing Arch for violations of the Stored Communications Act.

Both the trial and appellate courts held that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy as to the content of his messages.

U.S. Supreme Court Proceedings Edit

While the U.S. Supreme Court held that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy as to the content of his messages, the Court held that the OPD's warrantless search was nonetheless valid because the search was reasonable since it was motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and was not excessive in scope.[1]

Stored Communications Act Edit

The lower courts held that Arch was in violation of the Stored Communications Act, however, this was not at issue before the Supreme Court. Further, the Court held that "even if the Court of Appeals was correct to conclude that the SCA forbade Arch Wireless from turning over the transcripts, it does not follow that petitioners' actions were unreasonable."[2]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 130 S. Ct. at 2633.
  2. Id. at 2632

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