Jun 26, 2014
On Wednesday, June 25, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers need a warrant in order to search the cellphones of arrested subjects.
This action is considered a major ruling in favor of individual privacy, as law enforcement now will not be able to search cellphones except in “emergency situations.” The unanimous 9-0 ruling seeks to protect privacy in an era when many digital communications are being monitored and carefully watched.
In a Reuters.com article published Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts was quoted as writing: “We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime.” According to Reuters, Justice Roberts also added “privacy comes at a cost.”
This privacy ruling will greatly impact the procedures most police stations follow, as they were previously allowed to search cellphone contents without any restrictions. Cellphones are used by most Americans not just to make calls and send texts, but to store a plethora of personal information. Because many cellphones contain photos, videos, stored passwords, bank account information, etc., there are obvious privacy concerns about police officers being able to access information that is unrelated to the reason for arrest.
According to Reuters.com, Justice Roberts continued to write: “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 country’s Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”
The legal argument of privacy vs. potential security has long been argued, dating back (in writing) to the United States Constitution. For now, however, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the privacy of the American people.