Police need warrant to search arrestees’ cellphones

Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

In its ruling today in Riley v. California, the Supreme Court unanimously established a clear new rule for police-citizen interaction: The police can’t, without a warrant, search the digital information on cell phones they seize from people they arrest. This is a big deal because it means that being arrested for, say, not paying a speeding ticket, will no longer open you up to having your entire life examined by law enforcement. Unlike the satchels and billfolds of yore, people now carry essentially all their private documents with them at all times: address books, financial and medical records, photo albums, diaries, correspondence, and more. To allow police to review all of that information just because they happen to have arrested someone would violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection of personal papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. …

Kudos to the Court—and raspberries to the federal government, which has now had its expansive arguments rejected unanimously 11 times since January 2012.

More: Orin Kerr.

One Comment

  • …so the cops can still quietly search any cell-phone they get their hands on — they just can’t use their findings directly & openly as evidence in court related proceedings.

    Police warrantless telephone taps & electronic bugs have worked this way for almost a century… a warrant is only needed if they want to use the collected evidence in court — otherwise they can collect all they want, discretely. Sure it’s blatantly illegal, but cops do it all the time with very little fear of consequences.