Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C.
A Criminal Defense Law Firm
Call Today for a free Consultation
262-923-8761 24 Hour Emergency Contact

Supreme Court protects our cellphones from warrantless searches

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans against “unreasonable search and seizure” by law enforcement. In most cases, this means that police cannot search us or our property without first obtaining a warrant.

That being said, not all searches are treated equally. Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have long held that we have the most expectation of privacy in our homes. Our vehicles are a slightly different matter and so is the question of whether trained dogs can be used in searches without a warrant. Like most Constitutional matters, the written text provides the framework. The interpretation is more nuanced and often must be decided by courts.

Late last month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a long-awaited ruling on Fourth Amendment protections as they apply to the cellphones of recently arrested individuals. In a rare unanimous ruling, the Court held that cellphones (including smartphones) cannot be searched without a warrant.

To better understand this decision, it helps to have some additional context. In the past, the Supreme Court has said that law enforcement officers can search arrestees without a warrant for two reasons: To protect their own safety (from hidden weapons, for instance) and to prevent the destruction of evidence an arrestee might be carrying.

But police cannot search the contents of an arrestee’s cellphone and then use whatever evidence may be found on it without first obtaining a warrant. The two cases that raised the question both involved defendants who were charged with crimes based on evidence obtained when police arrested them for other offenses and searched their cellphones without a warrant.

Approximately 90 percent of Americans own cellphones. Moreover, these devices hold a plethora of personal information about our lives and daily activities. In light of this, the importance of the Court’s decision cannot be overstated. Had the Supreme Court ruled that warrantless cellphone searches of arrestees are permissible, the future of American privacy rights would look very bleak.

Source: USA Today, "Supreme Court limits police searches of cellphones," Richard Wolf, June 26, 2014

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Choosing the Right Lawyer Buting for the Defense In The News

Our Office

Brookfield Office
400 N. Executive Drive
Suite 205
Brookfield, WI 53005

Phone: 262-821-0999
Fax: 262-821-5599
Map & Directions

Glendale Office
6165 North Green Bay Avenue
Glendale, WI 53209

Fax: 262-821-5599
Map & Directions

payment

How Can
We Help You?

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy