Monday, June 30, 2014

Warrantless cell phone searches unconstitutional, says SCOTUS

Cops Can’t Search Cell Phones Without a Warrant, Supreme Court Rules | Threat Level | WIRED - Andy Greenberg:

June 25, 2014 - "After years of legal debate, the Supreme Court has told the cops to keep their hands off Americans’ cell phones – at least until they get a search warrant.

"The court released a landmark decision Wednesday morning in the case of Riley vs. California, forbidding warrantless police searches of the contents of arrestees’ cell phones. The ruling opinion notes that cell phones have in fact become tiny computers in Americans’ pockets teeming with highly private data, and that gaining access to them is now fundamentally different from rifling through someone’s pockets or purse. 'A decade ago officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many of the more than 90% of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives,' the opinion reads....

"Two cases brought the issue of warrantless cell phone searches to the Supreme Court’s attention. In one, a California man was charged with assault and attempted murder in relation to a street gang in which he was allegedly a member. Cops searched his smartphone without a warrant and found videos and photos that prosecutors argued linked him to the 'Bloods' gang. In the second case, a Boston man had his cell phone searched when he was arrested after an apparent drug sale. By finding his home address on his flip phone, police were able search his home and find a larger stash of drugs. Both defendants argued that the warrantless searches violated the fourth amendment.

"Wednesday’s ruling sides with both defendants and declares the searches in their cases unconstitutional."

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