SCOTUS rules: Police are prohibited from searching a smartphone without a warrant

Jun 25, 2014

Supreme Court Delivers Decisions Against Aereo And Rules In Favor Of Cellphone Privacy

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 25: Kirsten Luna from Holland, Michigan, uses her smartphone outside the U.S. Supreme Court after a major ruling on cell phone privacy by the court June 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring law enforcement officials to have a search warrant to search the cellphones of suspects they arrest. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images); Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In a rare 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that police cannot search smartphones of those they arrest, unless they have warrant. In the past, courts have allowed warrantless searches of phones because it was believed the information they contain could protect police officers and prevent the destruction of evidence. Few people dispute the phones’ value, but now our country’s highest court is taking a clear stance that the smartphones fall into a special category and that the privacy of citizens must be respected over any kind of windfall of incriminating information from them. Will the police be hindered from getting critical information in a timely manner? Should privacy be protected at all costs? And what other technology falls into this category? As more technology becomes wearable, how will that be treated by law enforcement?


Jeffrey L. Fisher, Attorney for David Leon Riley in Riley v. California; Fisher authored the petition before the Supreme Court challenging police searches of cell phone content; Professor of Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford University Law School

John Eastman, Professor of Law and Community Service and Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and former Dean at Chapman University School of Law


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