More on Firedoglake: “Get A Warrant” Before Searching Cell Phones from Kevin Gosztola

cross posted at the demise

A hand holding a cell phone

Want to search it? Get a warrant! –SCOTUS

In a truly landmark ruling that challenges the assumptions of law enforcement officials and prosecutors across America regarding the ephemeral notion of personal privacy. While privacy has been under an aggressive attack by both local law enforcers and national security state enlargers who have suggested that Americans should have absolutely no expectation of the right of personal privacy, the US Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous decision that police are required to obtain a court order before searching the contents of a citizen’s cell phone or smart phone.

The ruling resolved two cases where suspects were convicted after police accessed information; including photos, contact information, text messages and the call histories of the arrestees without seeking a warrant to perform the searches.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the court, stated, “We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime,” because, Roberts reminded, “Privacy comes with a cost.”

The court ruled that arresting officers can examine an arrestee’s cell phone “to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon,” but they cannot examine the contents of arrestee’s cell phones without first convincing a judge that further examination is warranted. The justices said that once officers secure the cell phones of arrestees, the “data on the phone can endanger no one.”

Roberts suggested in his opinion that the court was obliged to establish a bright-line ruling on the matter of warrantless searches of Americans’ cell phones and smart phones due to the proliferation of the devices and the technological advances that have resulted in such phones being the single largest repository of personal information that citizens own.

Photo by Cheon Fong Liew released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

patrick devlin

patrick devlin