Skip to content
Name: City of Ontario v. Quon
Case #: 08-1332
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/17/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 2619; 177 L.Ed.2d 216

The police department did not violate an officer’s Fourth Amendment rights by obtaining and reviewing text messages sent and received on a department-issued pager. Officer Quon sent sexually explicit text messages during work hours to his wife, girlfriend, and a co-worker on a pager issued by the police department. These messages were discovered when the department conducted an audit of messages to determine whether the service contract it signed with the wireless service provider needed to be changed since officers were exceeding their monthly text limits. Quon alleged the review of the messages violated his reasonable expectation of privacy. The Court assumed, without deciding, that the officer had standing to contest the actions of the department. But, applying O’Connor v. Ortega (1987) 480 U.S. 709, it held review of the texts was not an unreasonable Fourth Amendment search. The search was justified because it was conducted for a legitimate non-investigatory, work-related purpose, namely to ensure the department was not paying for extensive personal communication. The search was also reasonable in scope because only messages sent while the officer was on duty were reviewed, and only for a two-month period, a time period sufficient to review the efficacy of the subscribed plan with the service provide. The Court declined, however, to decide the broader Fourth Amendment issues presented by new technologies.