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US Supreme Court now weighs if cellphones can be searched without a warrant

Posted: , by Maxwell R.

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US Supreme Court now weighs if cellphones can be searched without a warrant
Today, the US Supreme Court heard arguments related to whether police need a warrant to search someone’s cellphone, even if that person is under arrest.

Two cases were argued, in Riley v. California the issue is whether Fourth Amendment rights afforded under the Constitution were violated as a result of evidence obtained from a cell phone and subsequently used at an earlier trial, resulting in a conviction.

In the United States v. Wurie, the argument is whether the Fourth Amendment allows the police to search someone’s cellphone without a warrant in the event of that person being under lawful arrest. In both instances, it appeared the Court was pensive about enabling unleashed power to the police when it came to searching cellphones without a warrant.

The argument in favor of allow searches is based on the fact that police are able to clear an arrestee’s pockets to ensure preservation of evidence and clear any possible harm to the arresting officer. The Obama Administration and State of California stated that cellphones have no greater protection than anything else found during such a search.

“People carry their entire lives in their cellphones,” according to Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Antonin Scalia also noted, “It seems absurd that they should be able to search that person’s iPhone” if someone were pulled over for driving without a seatbelt.

The Fourth Amendment states plainly, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In the 1970s, the Supreme Court did rule certain exceptions in the event a police officer placed someone under arrest. However, a number of Justices seemed concerned about applying such rules to rapidly advancing technology. Much of what we keep on our phones is as private as anything we keep in our homes.

In the case of Riley v. California, police used photos and videos on his phone to convict him of attempted murder and other charges. In US v. Wurie, police checked his call log after he was arrested for selling drugs and used that to determine where he lived. They then searched his home with a warrant and found drugs, a gun and some ammunition.

“How do we determine what the new expectation of privacy is?” asked Justice Samuel Alito.

Rulings on these cases should be handed down in late June.

source: Fox News

20 Comments
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posted on 29 Apr 2014, 17:49 3

1. Finalflash (Posts: 1539; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)


Yay, the privacy and security (if not the future as well) of 300 million people and what was the greatest example of freedom (USA for the lost) is in the hands of 9 people, half of who are senile, corrupt idiots and the other half being philosophically impotent (the one in the middle is either everything combined or gets a free pass).

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 14:40 1

20. downphoenix (Posts: 2285; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


The answer is simply no, as the rules should be the same as for computers, and to my knowledge they cant search computers without a warrant. Given the court we have though (they gave is Citizens United after all) I'm not hopeful they will rule justly.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 17:49 3

2. alpinejason (Posts: 262; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)


just one more example of them stripping away our rights one by one

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 17:50 5

3. true1984 (Posts: 586; Member since: 23 May 2012)


so, if you record police doing something illegal, they can take your phone and delete it and call it a "search"? god i love america sometimes

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 17:51 6

4. Sauce (unregistered)


Good luck having the average cop try and get into my iPhones encrypted messages and files/apps. They won't be able to see anything right away until they call the phone company (for the texts), let alone get past my biometric password (penis print protected) for my secured file manager.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 18:26 1

7. AJagtiani (Posts: 372; Member since: 24 Apr 2014)


You really are using your iPhone's fingerprint scanner to the maximum ;)

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 18:07 2

6. Planterz (Posts: 658; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


Can a home computer be searched without a warrant? A laptop a person has with them in their car?

A smartphone IS, in every sense of the word, a computer. If a warrant is needed for a computer, that should apply to smartphones too. If all they need is call records, they can get that from the service provider.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 18:40 1

8. VZWuser76 (Posts: 1275; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


What if someone is carrying some of their unopened mail in their pockets? Would that also be considered fair game to search? Otherwise without a warrant it'd be a felony for them to do so.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 19:10

9. zennacko (Posts: 227; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)


Tech companies should develop a voice kill switch for these cases (scream "Lockdown" and your phone bricks, no data shall ever be recovered). I wouldn't want my personal data looked up, stored and last but not least, eventually used against me (even if we're not criminals, we wouldn't know what they'd do if they found that our girlfriends would be naughty enough to send us naked pics, videos and whatnot, and whatsapp groups can harm one's reputation too.)

That's why the companies must build such feature into phones. Ever since the Patriot Act the constitution gets gradually disregarded, as if the "Privilege, not a right" thing wasn't such a pain in the neck on its own terms.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 19:12

10. Planterz (Posts: 658; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


That's a really, really dumb idea.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 19:21 1

11. ePoch270 (Posts: 89; Member since: 26 Sep 2013)


Yeah that way your drunk "friends" or subway troll can run up to you and yell "Lockdown!" Genius.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 05:31

17. zennacko (Posts: 227; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)


Not if your smartphone is locked to YOUR voice, not theirs. Was it that hard to get?

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 08:28

18. ePoch270 (Posts: 89; Member since: 26 Sep 2013)


Last I checked, voice technology is not strong enough to ONLY recognize you. Until there is an assurance of no false positives, it's a no go. And until it is, yours is a poor idea. Is that not hard to get?

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 20:02 1

12. Augustine (Posts: 672; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)


Whenever I'm near a constitution-free zone, like airport security check-points, border crossings and border check-points, I make sure that all my devices are password-protected and turned off, so that there's no excuse that it was just laying there in plain sight.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 22:06 2

13. 0xFFFF (Posts: 2434; Member since: 16 Apr 2014)


There really needs to be an amendment to the Constitution which allows for the recall and lifetime ban of any government official, based on a simple plurality of the people's vote.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 22:47

14. Gawain (Posts: 342; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)


Then we would cease to be a Republic, and there would be mob rule. If you really want to see a rebalance of power, repeal the 17th Amendment. Give the states back their representation.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 23:09 1

15. 0xFFFF (Posts: 2434; Member since: 16 Apr 2014)


The People are not a mob.

I don't think the 17th amendment, in and of itself, is a bad thing. But for any sort of "representation", we need strict term limits, tough anti-corruption laws, and the ability to recall and ban with a simple plurality.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 02:30

16. Gawain (Posts: 342; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)


That is mob rule. A "simple" plurality of people to get together and run roughshot. Term limits begin with returning power to a more local base. You accomplish that by repealing popular vote of Senators and returning that duty to state legislatures.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 09:27

19. uncfan44 (Posts: 6; Member since: 24 Apr 2013)


Small rant on lock down idea, most customers are not clever enough in my experience to have any data backed up. i've heard things regularly like "what do you mean its my job to back up my own info, i thought thats what you guys were for?" wtf, yes em or yes sir i'll back up your data from your phone that is in 2 pieces, no charging port and has obvious water damage. lol. but on a serious note, there needs to be more people crying out about this. its redic that someone would think they should have the right to search through our phones just because said person is under arrest. what if they person was innocent of crime and you just went through all his or her personal things. saddened that the police community cant see past it being the job to catch bad guys to real life questions like, is finding the bad guy more important on a grand scale than individual rights and liberty's of the citizens i swore to protect.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 22:34

21. roscuthiii (Posts: 1785; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


Meh... the same laws that say whether they can search a woman's purse/man's wallet, or someone's diary/journal should apply to phones.

Overall the keyword in the 4th Amendment is "reasonable". What is reasonable in one incident may not be reasonable in another.

Most voters... those that actually turn up... seem to focus primarily on the big presidential-type elections. The little elections go overlooked and a lot of the time are won simply by default. Get to know who your local politicians are as it's going to be them who determine who's going to be your local officials and how the laws will be enforced locally.

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