It’s no secret that we’ve become more and more attached to our cell phones as time goes by. For me, this realization has surfaced recently, as I’ve noticed that my parents are always on their cell phones. We get breakfast at a diner for some “family time” and they’re on their phones more than I am. They are checking Facebook, scanning news websites, and deleting old emails. Even my grandparents just got smartphones. Sure, they don’t really know how to use them but it’s only a matter of time before they become engrossed in the world of Snapchat, banking apps, and posting their photos to Facebook. The smartphone is taking over our world.
Smartphones are just a part of everyday life now, and most of us are glued to the things. They store our contacts, our photos, our grocery lists, voice memos, notes…the list goes on and on. Because we are so attached to our phones and they contain so much of our personal information, there has been recent debate about the police’s ability to search smartphones upon arrest. In the past few months, the Supreme Court has weighed in on this issue. To understand the rights that you have when it comes to your cell phone, get the facts here.
Search of Cell Phones
Recently, the Supreme Court made a ruling that upon arrest, the police are not allowed to automatically search cell phones. They need a search warrant in order to do so. This ruling has done wonders for privacy rights in the age of technology. The Supreme Court unanimously decided that smartphones and other devices such as tablets are in a different category than objects subject to examination by police officers. Things that can be searched by police when an arrest takes place are vehicles, wallets, purses, brief cases, and other personal belongings. The Supreme Court recognizes, however, that electronic devices are separate entities and cannot automatically be searched.
The ruling made by the Supreme Court was done so in order to protect rights under the Fourth Amendment, namely, the right to decline unreasonable searches. The ruling says that probable cause is not enough to search a cell phone or similar device – instead, a search warrant must be obtained.
What does this mean for you? It means that you can and should invoke your Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. If you have a run-in with the law, and the police attempt to search your phone, take the fourth! Ask the police officers if they have a warrant to search your phone. If they do not, they are not legally allowed to search it. However, if they do, you will have to hand it over.