Supreme Court Rules Cops Need A Warrant To Search Your Cell Phone

The United States Supreme Court this past summer, June 2014,  ruled unanimously in favor of privacy rights protected by the Constitution by declaring the police can’t search an arrested person’s cell phone without obtaining a search warrant. police arrest search Police may still have the ability to search a cellphone or smartphone for further evidence of a crime, however they need to take an extra step of acquiring a search warrant from a judge.

The cases the Court reviewed first involved a smartphone search in Riley v . California where, without a warrant, police searched digital information seized from an individual’s phone who had been arrested. Police then used photos found on the smartphone to charge Riley with another crime. The other case the Court reviewed involved a more limited search of an flip-phone in United States v. Wurie that a U.S. District Court had already thrown out as an illegal search.

In writing the opinion for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded large amounts of sensitive data on smartphones raise new Fourth Amendment privacy concerns that differentiate cell phones from other evidence found subsequent to arrest. Police can search a person under arrest as well as any physical items that are within reach of the arresting officer. However, Roberts went on to say the warrantless search exception following an arrest exists for the purposes of protecting police officers’ safety as well as preserving evidence, neither of which are at issue in the search of digital data. The digital data cannot be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer, and police have the ability to preserve evidence while awaiting a warrant by disconnecting the phone from the network and placing it in a faraday bag.

If you were arrested and the police searched your cell phone without a search warrant, you should the seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is informed of new privacy rights rulings by the courts as they relate to the issues of illegal search. Contact the Law Offices of Shipman and Crim to schedule a consultation.

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