The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that police must have a warrant to search a person’s cell phone. With the advent of smart phones, a phone is no longer just a phone- it’s a date book, journal, contacts, financial information and other personal information that they would ordinarily would need a search warrant to obtain. The court says, “90% of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives.”
Officers can, however, examine the phone’s physical aspects to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon, but the data on the phone can endanger no one. Of course, there are exigent circumstances, such as an officer seeing a text about an immediate danger, somewhere—the court wrote that such cases should be dealt with individually.
The Supreme Court seems wary of allowing police unbridled freedom to search, cellphones found on people they arrest.
The court heard arguments in two cases Tuesday involving a drug dealer and a gang member whose convictions turned in part on evidence found on their cell phones.
The justices suggested they might favor limiting warrantless cell phone searches to looking for evidence of the crime on which an arrest is based. Both defendants could lose in such an outcome.
But it would allow the court to avoid subjecting people arrested for minor crimes from Cheap Snapbacks Hats having the vast contents of their cell phones open to police inspection.