The high court ruled against the Obama administration in an 8-to-1 decision with Chief Justice John Roberts declaring that both the quantity and quality of information contained in modern hand-held devices is constitutionally protected from police intrusion without a warrant.
“Modern cell phones aren’t a technological convenience,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,'” he wrote.
Current laws state that police can search anything on a person when they make an arrest, although opponents argue that smartphones are different because they hold so much personal information.
For years, the courts have long held that police can, without a warrant, search anything they find on people they arrest, like purses or wallets.
“Typically, there is time to get subpoenas, warrants, but sometimes there is a sense of urgency,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said when the court was handed the case in April.
“Obviously this will have a huge impact on policing nationwide,” Lanier said in the spring. “But I think the court does a good job of balancing the needs of law enforcement and public safety and the privacy of citizens.”
The court did suggest police could still move ahead without a warrant in extreme circumstances — an example being a suspect texting someone who might detonate a bomb.
Those special circumstances can be evaluated by a court after the fact, the court pointed out, NBCNews reported.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires investigators to persuade a magistrate they have “probable cause” to obtain a search warrant.
SOURCE: NBC | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty