Supreme Court Endorses Cell Phone Privacy Rights

The US Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling this week, deciding in favor of privacy rights for cell phone users instead of giving law enforcement increased search and seizure powers. The decision was unanimous and now requires that law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant to search the content of cell phones in the possession of someone lawfully arrested for a crime.

The opinion of the court, delivered by Chief Justice Roberts, recognized that many owners of modern cell phones "keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives", and that if officers were allowed to search the contents of a cell phone routinely without a warrant, they would have access to a large volume of personal information.

The court sided with arguments put forward by the American Civil Liberties Union, that warrantless cell phone searches were not permitted under the fourth amendment of the constitution, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches.

The decision comes on the back of two other recent and important US Supreme Court decisions dealing with the fourth amendment. The first requiring the police to obtain a warrant before taking a non-consensual blood sample, from someone arrested for DUI. The second decision addressed the reasonableness of traffic stops based on anonymous 911 calls and basically allowed such stops so long as the information given by the anonymous caller seemed reasonable and trustworthy. Both of theses cases are addressed in earlier blogs.


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