Supreme Court To Cops Searching Cell Phones: "Get A Warrant"

“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,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a unanimous decision overruling the assertion by some cops that searching a person’s cell phone is on different than turning out a suspect’s pockets.

“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.”

It’s hard to imagine that there are people who think that police shouldn’t need a warrant to go looking through the private information on your phone. Especially given that most cell phones Americans use these days contain a lot more information than address books and phone call logs. These days phones might have access to medical information, private photographs, financial data, etc.

Phones aren’t so much phones these days as personal computers. The police don’t have carte blanche to go rooting through your private computer just because it makes phone calls and fits in your pocket.

The question is, what does this ruling portend for the inevitable Supreme Court ruling on the federal government’s NSA spying on electronic communications?

There are cases slowly making their way to the high court challenging the NSA’s activities. If SCOTUS, unanimous, believes that a police officer thumbing through your phone during a traffic stop is an unreasonable search, how are they likely to feel about the federal government accessing and storing everything from emails to call logs to browsing history for broad swaths of the population indiscriminately?

If cops need a warrant to search your cell phone, why wouldn’t the NSA need a warrant to collect your emails?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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