US Supreme Court Tells Police: No Warrant = No Smartphone

Striking a blow for freedom from coast to coast, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that police must have a warrant in order to search smartphones.

Constitutional experts are predicting that the nine-to-zero ruling will also keep the police from searching people’s laptops, tablets, and desktop computers without warrants. Meanwhile, criminal justice insiders say that the ruling will hamper police investigations, a point that Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged when he wrote in the decision for the entire court, “Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals. Privacy comes at a cost.”

Yes, privacy does indeed come at a cost, one that a free society must be willing to pay.

Roberts added that allowing police to search smartphones without warrants is potentially worse than giving cops free reign to enter homes. “A cell phone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house: A phone not only contains in digital form many sensitive records previously found in the home; it also contains a broad array of private information never found in a home in any form unless the phone is.”

In making the unanimous ruling, the elderly group of nine seemed to laugh at the government’s assertion that searching one’s smartphone was no different than rifling through someone’s pockets. “That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” Roberts wrote.

This ruling, a surprise to many court watchers, comes just two years following the court’s decision that the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not attach GPS devices to cars without warrants. However, that ruling was not a complete shutout as was this one. Regardless of the final vote tally, one thing is clear, the government continues to make a habit of reaching too far.

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