(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that police officers usually need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect's cellphone, a major decision in favor of privacy rights at a time of increasing concern over government encroachment in digital communications.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said that the right of police to search an arrested suspect at the scene without a warrant does not extend in most circumstances to data held on a cellphone. There are some emergency situations in which a warrantless search would be permitted, the court noted.
The unanimous 9-0 ruling goes against law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, which wanted more latitude to search without having to obtain a warrant. The ruling is a win for digital privacy advocates.
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I look at it the opposite way. It's not likely I'll ever do anything that will result in me being arrested and a cop searching my cell phone for evidence; so I really don't care about this.
On the other hand, when they catch someone who commits a crime, this hinders their ability to get quick intel. I realize that more often than not, it won't be a big deal to wait for a warrant - but what about the situations where time is most important; like a child abduction or kidnapping, etc.
I find it a slippery slope. Obviously I don't want the authorities to have the ability to do whatever they want for no good reason - but I also don't want them to be hindered from doing their job with efficiency.
We hear about cops/government agencies that abuse their authority, but these are few & far between. I think most all of them are decent people and have no interest in bothering with people who've given them no reason to do so.
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It's not likely I'll ever do anything that will result in me being arrested and a cop searching my cell phone for evidence; so I really don't care about this.
Good thing then that if you do get pulled-over and arrested, other people did care. In a supposedly free society this kind of reasoning never ceases to baffle me ...
We hear about cops/government agencies that abuse their authority, but these are few & far between.
No less frequent than the "ticking time-bomb / kidnapping / child abduction that needs to be solved right now" scenarios, which already have legal exceptions ...
I find it a slippery slope.
No more or less slippery than the opposite slope, which I would argue is not only steeper but poses a greater threat to more people.
I find this to be the correct decision (as did the supremes, it being a relatively rare unanimous decision) in that the circumstances demanding an immediate, unconstrained search in the interests of safety are already accounted for. So the burden is to justify why *wouldn't* the police need a warrant?
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