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U.S. Supreme Court rules police need a warrant to search cell phones

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that police must have a warrant to search the content inside a cell phone of a person who has been arrested.

The decision is the result of two cases that were brought to the Supreme Court, Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie, both of which involved police who searched the content of cell phones of people who had been arrested but without asking for a warrant beforehand.

However, in a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the nine members of the Supreme Court all agreed that "police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested."

The court did state there will be a few exceptions to this rule, such as cases that involve kidnappings and bomb threats that generate what the judges consider to be "exigent circumstances". However, today's decision finally does offer solid guidance on what the police can and cannot do when they arrest people with cell phones.

What do you think about this new court ruling and do you support the fact that police will now need to get a warrant before they can search inside the contents of a cell phone?

Source: U.S. Supreme Court

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Reader comments

U.S. Supreme Court rules police need a warrant to search cell phones

67 Comments

Well its not that hard for me to play devils advocate. Police can search backpacks and purses after someone has been arrested. The courts were probably unsure whether to classify a cell phone in this same category or not. If someone gets arrested for selling drugs they search the person for evidence supporting that charge. Searching a cell phone can yield texts and sometimes photos to prove drug sales. So in a way this had to be argued since it's kind of new territory although I agree they came to the right conclusion.

Now... Extend that rule to the NSA and it will have some real impact. Until then, this is just smoke and mirrors.

True. The NSA should not be able to access our data without a warrant, just as police cant. Our central government thinks they are above the laws they make.

The NSA doesn't search your phone. It just knows when phone number XXX-XXXX called YYY-YYYY. It doesn't even have the names associated with the phone number until it gets access through a warrant. It's like knowing what IP addressing pinged another IP address. Nothing more.

This case was about the Police actually getting on your phone and looking through all your details, contacts, messages, files, music, you name it. BIG DIFFERENCE

What do you mean by "all the data"? That's a very vague statement and is exactly why everyone is freaking out about the NSA. Whether or not they should be collecting Meta Data is one thing, but people acting like they are sitting their listening to our conversations is bullshit. Meta data is just phone number, time of call, and duration. Nothing explicit to the actual individual calling.

The only personal info they have on a phone number is after they've gotten warrants or if the individual is from outside the US and affiliated with a terrorist orangization.

The IRS knows far more about you than any other Federal organization, including the NSA. Maybe we should be freaking out about them instead.

Snowden captured MILLIONS of documents from the NSA and nothing noted that they were collecting anything more than that. I don't necessarily trust them either, but evidence suggests that's all they collect currently.

Hijacking switch and router manufacturers' equipment on route to their destinations is all just a massive ploy to collect meta data! Yeah, believe what you'd like; I'll just play it safe and assume the NSA can touch/listen/see everything and act accordingly.

The is a fair ruling! It give the rights to the person who is under arrest and still lets the police protect the public!

We need a another law to clarify this? Unreasonable search & seizure already exists. Just shows to prove a lot of police & govt officials are crooks

This is the first time in a really long time that I actually agree with wondering the supreme court ruled on

What about prior to arrest? Say you're on the street and a cop rolls up on you and wants to check your phone? There are things that can happen prior to an arrest.

They can ask to look at your phone, but you can say no. Same for any search, an officer can ask to search your home without a warrant and you can say no. End if story

Yes, having appropriate limits on powerful institutions like the police is something to be interested in.

About time. Now we need them to affirm our right to video interactions with uniformed police and to make any threats or harassment by Police for doing so a punishable offence.

Public servant like police officers should expect review of their behavior from all stakeholders, including the public.  IE, I absolutely agree that the public should be able to video police officers in all situations except for when doing so ACTIVELY interferes with the officer.

Actually it was; "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Great. Another law to weigh down the police and let criminals get away. Only people who care if the police look through there phone are people who have something to hide.

...and people like me who want people like those bustas who could give a shit about anything but mischief the hell out of my personal business.

Is it really that much of a burden for a police officer to take 15 minutes to get a search warrant.  I think not.

15 minutes? For a search warrant? You watch way too much CSI. The real world does not solve cases in nice, neat one hour blocks. And yes, the phone can be remotely wiped.

I think you're missing the bigger picture...you are, by constitutional right, presumed innocent. Innocent citizens are afforded certain protections... otherwise we're back in the dark ages, or a police state where you can be searched at the whim of a person of authority. It is not about protecting criminals...it's about ensuring your rights as a law abiding citizen and your right to privacy. Otherwise...get used to, "Papers, please"...