Police Need a Warrant to Search your Cell Phone

Here’s a scenario that, if you are like many Houston residents, you have faced before. You are driving along, maybe a little too fast, or maybe slightly drifting out of your assigned lane. Before you know it, the ominous “red, white, and blue” lights appear out of nowhere and the shriek of a siren pierces the cozy confines of your vehicle. As you pull over to the shoulder and roll down your window, you hear the familiar refrain: “license, registration, and cell phone, please.” Well, maybe that wasn’t quite the way that exchange usually went before the recent Supreme Court decision in Riley v. California, but most folks who find themselves pulled over by the cops shouldn’t be hearing that command any time soon. Cell Phones Are Different Than Wallets or Address Books In a 9-0 decision, the high court ruled that the 4th amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” now extends to an individual’s cell phone. Delivering the opinion for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts definitively stated that: “Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person. The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.” Probable Cause Required to Search or Seize […]