When an unnamed 23-year-old woman (referred to in legal documents as Jane Doe) was pulled over by California Highway Patrol Officer (name withheld to protect the accused) and his partner for an unsafe lane change that turned into DUI charges (CA Vehicle Code 23152(a)), she knew that she would have to deal with the legal consequences that would ensue, but she never suspected that she would also have to deal with a social matter, that of explicit photographs stolen from her cell phone while she waited in her county jail cell in Martinez to be released. It seems that the officer asked for the woman’s cell phone password so that a contact of hers could be retrieved.
According to video surveillance footage evidence at the Martinez jail, the officer can be seen in possession of Doe’s phone in the area in which it was used to forward 6 compromising photographs of the woman to none other than officer’s own cell phone. These images are reported to be of a private and sexual nature. Additionally, there is reason to believe that he tried to cover his act by erasing the text message from Doe’s phone. She was only alerted to the fact that the photographs had been sent because her iPhone and iPad are linked. Law enforcement officials say that they are disappointed in behavior like this and will work to bring whoever forwarded the photographs to justice, as it is tantamount to theft.
While this incident may not seem to be a serious one, there is precedent for cases like this in the annals of California law. When celebrity accounts have been hacked and explicit photographs leaked to the public, the response from law enforcement has been uncompromising. Though there is no evidence that he has made the photographs available to anyone but himself, it remains a violation of privacy, theft, and perhaps even ‘wrongful appropriation.’
Wrongful appropriation is considered a crime under CA Penal Code 485. At its most basic form, a violation of the above mentioned law occurs when an individual knows property to be lost, knows the person that it belongs to, and fails to return it to them anyway. In this case, the photographs may represent a failure on his part as opposed to a direct illegal action.