The Supreme Court of the United States said last Wednesday that police officers must have a warrant before searching the cell phone contents of an individual under arrest.
In a unanimous ruling announced Wednesday, June 25, 2014 the high court settled two cases surrounding instances in which law enforcement officials scoured the mobile phones of suspects in custody and then used information contained therein to pursue further charges.
Here is a sample of some important language from the ruling:
“The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested,” the Supreme Court ruled.
“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience,” the court continued. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”
This is a big win and a long one coming for protecting our digital privacy and moving our laws into the 21st century and working to get them on pace with technology trends.
The high court’s decision last week stems from two cases in which individuals received extended prison sentences due to convictions that may not have been possible had police not accessed their cell phones to gather evidence. In both instances, a warrant was not requested nor issued to search the contents of the arrestee’s phones.
This is yet another example of the laws governing our land being outdated where technology is involved. Cell phones and now smart phones have been around for a couple of decades and just now some of the same protection that has been applied and demanded in other areas (like land line phones) are just not being adopted to address the actual technology we all use today.