Supreme Court (Public Domain)

Supreme Court: Police Need A Warrant To Search Phones

on Wednesday, Jun. 25th

A landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States means that police and other law enforcement officials won’t be able to search through suspects and citizens smartphones without a warrant.

There are, naturally, some exceptions to the blanket warrant ruling:

In light of the availability of the exigent circumstances exception, there is no reason to believe that law enforcement officers will not be able to address some of the more extreme hypotheticals that have been suggested: a suspect texting an accomplice who, it is feared, is preparing to detonate a bomb, or a child abductor who may have information about the child’s location on his cell phone. The defendants here recognize—indeed, they stress—that such fact-specific threats may justify a warrantless search of cell phone data. (Via Ars Technica)

Therein lies the rub, as law enforcement will inevitably begin attempting to define more and more circumstances as “exigent.” SCOTUS has left just enough of a loophole open to still invite serious abuses, while at the same time pointing the way towards a path by which privacy advocates can hem excesses by pushing for legislation that defines exigent circumstances more rigidly.

Make no mistake, however, this is a major pendulum swing towards privacy after years of eroding protections.


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