High Court Issue: Do Police Need Warrants To Search Cellphones?


The Supreme Court will take the next step in applying traditional notions of privacy to emerging technology, announcing it will consider whether police need a warrant to search the contents of a cellphone they seize when making an arrest, the Washington Post reports. Government officials contend cellphones are no different from other items that the court over the years has said police may search when they find them on people they arrest.

Defendants and privacy advocates say modern cellphones contain a wealth of information that traditionally has been off-limits. In trying to apply Supreme Court precedents about the constitutional protection from unreasonable searches to modern technology, lower courts are deeply split. “At least six courts hold that the Fourth Amendment permits such searches, while at least three others hold that it does not,” says Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford law professor representing a California man. The court accepted two cases with different technologies. One involves a Massachusetts man's old-style flip phone, while the California defendant was carrying a Samsung Instinct M800 smartphone.

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