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

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

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20 Comments

1. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 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).

20. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 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.

2. alpinejason

Posts: 262; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

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

3. true1984

Posts: 865; Member since: May 23, 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

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.

7. AJagtiani

Posts: 466; Member since: Apr 24, 2014

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

6. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 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.

8. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 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.

9. zennacko unregistered

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.

10. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

That's a really, really dumb idea.

11. ePoch270

Posts: 193; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

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

17. zennacko unregistered

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

18. ePoch270

Posts: 193; Member since: Sep 26, 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?

12. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 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.

13. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 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.

14. Gawain

Posts: 438; Member since: Apr 15, 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.

15. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 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.

16. Gawain

Posts: 438; Member since: Apr 15, 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.

19. uncfan44

Posts: 9; Member since: Apr 24, 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.

21. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 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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