U.S. Supreme Court Cellphone Search Cases

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It may not be too much longer before the U.S. Supreme Court addresses the issue on how much privacy Americans have in the information contained in and from their cellphones. With today’s advanced technologies, many use cellphones for more than just making calls. Cellphones have become Americans personal pocket computers by having the capability to make calls, send text messages, send and receive emails, update social media sites, take pictures with the camera and have access to the internet at their fingertips all day. This wasn’t a problem 10 years ago as cellphones were simply used to make calls and send text messages.

Defense attorneys and civil liberties supporters state that police searches of physical cellphones as well as the location data collected should require a search warrant. They argue this is no different than a person’s personal computer or an email. Law enforcement groups and prosecutors state that information that has been voluntarily shared with cellphone providers or information that can be viewed on a phone, without much invasion, is much lower than with other closed containers.

There are several cases in lower courts that could give the justices the opportunity to decide on privacy questions. The issue that may touch the justices as early as next term is whether or not and to what extent police may conduct warrantless searches of cellphone contents during a lawful arrest.

Another issue arising is whether or not police need a search warrant to obtain cellphone location information from cellphone providers. This type of information can tell police an individual’s movements over a period of time. This information could include a complete record of everywhere you have been, including doctor’s offices, church, your child’s school functions or even a night at a friend’s house.

When these cases reach the Supreme Court, the justices will have to decide if obtaining this information without a search warrant is in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

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