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Police officers must have a warrant to search your phone, Supreme Court rules

News by Andrew Kameka on Wednesday June 25, 2014.

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Law enforcement officers in the United States will have to obtain a warrant prior to searching someone's phone or risk lawsuits and botched investigations. The US Supreme Court today ruled that police officers, with limited exception, must secure a warrant before searching a phone seized by someone in custody.

In Riley v. California, the Court ruled that the warrantless search of a California man's phone was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures. The court found that Riley had a reasonable expectation of privacy to the content found in his phone and investigators should have used their suspicion of the defendant to obtain a warrant to search the device prior to scanning it. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the following when affirming the unanimous decision:

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans "the privacies of life," Boyd, supra, at 630. 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. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple - get a warrant."

The Supreme Court did allow for police officers to search through phone in extreme situations, such as a suspect texting someone to detonate a bomb or gleam information about the location of an abducted child whose life is in danger. However, the ruling establishes that officers must prove that "exigent circumstances" justify searching the phone without obtaining a warrant.

via: Ars Technica

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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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