SCOTUS: Warrant Needed for Cell Phone Searches
The digital information on your cell phones can no longer be searched by police without a warrant, according to a unanimous ruling, Wednesday, by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Modern cellphones "hold for many Americans the privacies of life," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.
"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 founders fought," he added.
The court's opinion dismisses the government's argument that there's no legal distinction between smart-phones and other physical items, like a wallet or an address book that can be found on a suspect during an arrest.
"It's a huge victory for anyone who values privacy," attorney Pat Ford said.
Warrantless searches of a suspect are often justified by the need to protect officers or to prevent a person from destroying evidence.
But Justice Roberts said that digital information can't hurt an officer and police may still take the cell phone. They just can't search what's on it until they have a warrant.
Still, privacy comes at a cost, and some investigations will be disrupted or slowed down.
The new ruling has no impact on the National Security Agency's data collection programs.
Nevertheless, lawyers involved in the case say the justices' opinions signal their interest in the dangers of government overreach.