Police Now Need Warrants to Search Cellphones

Police Now Need Warrants to Search Cellphones

In a recent decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that cell phone data of an individual who’s been arrested may not be be searched by police without a warrant, addressing concerns about Fourth Amendment rights.

“This is a bold opinion,” said George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

The country definitely seems to have entered a new digital age. In fact, 90% of Americans own a cell phone; 25% of whom are making online searches with these mobile devices. That’s not to mention the fact that 29% of cellphone owners can’t imagine living without their devices.

However, perhaps the biggest indicator of a digital age is that this ruling has broader implications. According to the Adam Liptak of the New York Times, it almost certainly applies to other mobile devices, which means that police will also need warrants to search tablets and laptops. 

According to the ruling, “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.”

Though this ruling is definitely a win for privacy rights in the digital age, it will also make law enforcement more challenging, which Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged. 

“Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” wrote Roberts in the ruling. “Privacy comes at a cost.”

However, the ruling may not make it that much more difficult, considering the fact that similar technologies can make it easier than ever for police to get their warrants. The Chief Justice noted that using email and tablets, officers can sometimes obtain their warrants in just 15 minutes time.

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