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Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant 249

New submitter CarlThansk (3713681) writes The courts have long debated on if cell phones can be searched during an arrest without a warrant. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected (PDF) from routine inspection." Phones may still be searched under limited circumstances (imminent threats), but this looks like a clear win for privacy. Quoting the decision: "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. Cell phones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals. Privacy comes at a cost."
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Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant

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  • Not in USA (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:27PM (#47316609)

    Now if you can tell the NSA to stay the hell out of everyone elses phones, that would be great. Thanks.

  • Moot point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:37PM (#47316739)

    The NSA, FBI and local cops are well beyond caring about what the courts or Congress thinks. If our legal system had any teeth in it, this might be different. But if all the courts are going to do is say, "We have ruled. Fail to comply and we will issue another ruling." the cops are just going to ROTFL.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:38PM (#47316755) Homepage Journal

    You're almost certainly right that they'll try it, but that's not what it means here. "Imminent" means "in the near future", and the idea is that cops would like to know if you just texted all your buddies to "come to the corner of 5th and Ghetto to kill the pigs arresting you". I can certainly see why police would like to know that and have a legitimate reason to.

    However, there's no way to ask a phone (slash-camera slash-Rolodex (SCOTUS's words!)), "hey, can you give me just the information I need to know in the next 5 minutes and keep everything else safe for its owner?". Cops could use that as an excuse to get into your phone, and hey, since I'm already in here, let's see what this little miscreant was posting on Facebook... SCOTUS ruled that this is a flimsy excuse that doesn't justify the privacy abuses that police had committed, and so dismissed it explicitly as not being sufficient cause to invade your personal information repo.

  • Re:FP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:41PM (#47316799)

    no problemo. they will just buy the self-same info from facebook or amazon and it's "affiliates" (anyone with money).

  • Re:FP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:44PM (#47316827) Journal

    I kind of do.

    It's pretty obvious that the data on cell phones is "papers" from the fourth amendment, and the phones themselves are "effects".

  • Re:Borders (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:55PM (#47316935)

    Now all the US needs is a similar commonsense approach at border crossings.

    You're assuming our government wants to fix the problem. They don't. The border issue is good for everyone involved with the exception of the immigrants.

    Business leaders get nearly slave labor. People can't report illegal activity protest poor conditions.
    Democrats get to pretend to fight for the little guy. They offer amnesty because they know it will kill the issue, continuing the problem and giving them more political capital because they're seen as doing the right thing... even though they aren't doing anything really.
    Republicans get to pretend they care about the American worker, by keeping the foreigners out. But what they are really doing is keeping those workers (who are already here) in the shadows... there-by assuring that they wont even make minimum wage and making them an even greater threat to American jobs. To perpetuate the issue, every time it comes up they suggest we put the military on the border, witch they know is completely impossible.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:56PM (#47316953) Homepage

    Using the patriot act to go after regular criminals is a good example of more police required to police said police.

    More police just adds more layers in which they can game the system.

    What needs to happen is a permanent recording of all interactions with people so they can't just get together and decide what their story will be.

    We need to fix the system so that it has an inherent "we can't just take you at your word" element in it. Because time after time the police have demonstrated they neither know, nor care about, the actual law.

    Sure, many of them may be honest. But if we just assume that enough of them aren't, and set up a system which shows what really happened ... then maybe we might be better off.

    I have lost count of the number of times I've seen stories in which the police collectively say "this is what happened", and when someone's cell phone video comes up they're proven to have been lying. And then their own internal review boards clear them of any wrong doing.

    There needs to be more serious penalties for when police flout the law. And there needs to be more capturing of what actually happened, because when they do flout the law, the band together to hide that fact.

    Increasingly, I think we need to apply the same thing to government. Because we can't trust them to follow the law either.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:58PM (#47316983) Journal

    Think about DUI checkpoints. Clearly unconstitutional

    Says who? The precedent [] suggests otherwise. I don't really care for the concept myself, but I can recognize a compelling state interest [] when I see one. You're perfectly free to respond to every single question asked at a checkpoint with "I don't talk to the police, may I leave now?" and there's not a damned thing they can do about it, unless of course you're under the influence.....

  • Re:Moot point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:10PM (#47317111) Homepage

    Or, they'll go with their new favorite toy ... illegally search your phone, and then go through the bullshit of parallel construction.

    And then it would be "we got an anonymous tip, and confirmed it when we checked his cell phone", which will be used to cover up "we illegally searched his phone, and then called in our own tip".

    And none of them will be charged with perjury or obstruction of justice.

    Until we start seeing police officers charged and jailed for this crap, they'll keep doing it.

    The police have become little better than those in banana republics where you have to assume they're all corrupt, because there's enough of them to make assuming the one you've got now is honest is a bad idea.

  • Re:unanimously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:31PM (#47317335) Homepage Journal
    What do you mean? He voted same as Scalia and didn't say anything. Classic Thomas.
  • by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:55PM (#47317531)

    Eventually, citizens will record everything, and what you are suggesting is going to pass.

    If the government can record anywhere, we the people should be recording anywhere.

  • Re:Well unless... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:56PM (#47317535) Homepage

    Where would that be?

    Perhaps you haven't been paying attention, but they can conduct a border search [] up to 100 miles from the border [], with no probable cause or justification (or a warrant).

    Government keeps making exceptions and saying "well, that doesn't apply here".

    In this specific case, you can completely ignore the intent of the 4th amendment by saying "border search".

    And, since about two thirds of US citizens are in this zone, most Americans can be searched in a way which would otherwise be illegal, but defended under a horseshit exemption.

    This is what is referred to as the area which is now magically exempt from the Constitution. Because we can search anybody, for any reason, and bypass your Constitutional protections.

  • Re:Not in USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @03:49PM (#47318051)

    Let 'em listen. As long as what they hear can't be used in court, that's 99% of the battle for 99% of the cases.

    Then they came for the other 1%, and I did not speak out because I was not part of the other 1% ...

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @04:56PM (#47318679)

    The problem is a cop does not consider him/herself to be a citizen. They are cops, we are citizens. It's an "us vs them" mentality in which the cops are a privileged class of people who think they are the law and sometimes pretend they are above it. That mentality also leads them to form tight bonds in which they will cover for each other and outright lie about anything to keep their jobs and freedoms. And internal panels for review are just as bad often letting cops off the hook for perjury, assault and outright murder with little more than a slap on the wrist.

    If you ask me law enforcement should retrain itself (pipe dream, I know but hopefully not) to see itself as citizens who are tasked with enforcing the law. They are not the law, they are not above it and they are subject to the very law they help enforce as everyone else is. They simply have a job to do though it is a very important one.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban