The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a couple of tech-related decisions today. Second up: Riley vs. California.
This one doesn’t seem obvious from the title, but what it boils down to is this: can police search your cell phone (of whatever kind) without a warrant?
Not only did the SCOTUS say, “No,” they said it unanimously.
Our holding, of course, is not that the information on a cell phone is immune from search; it is instead that a warrant is generally required before such a search, even when a cell phone is seized incident to arrest.
They also pointed out that it is incredibly easy for a police officer to obtain that warrant:
…police officers can e-mail warrant requests to judges’ iPads [and] judges have signed such warrants and e-mailed them back to officers in less than 15 minutes.”
In the end, their opinion came down to this:
Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple-get a warrant.
There are possible exceptions, however. For example:
…texting an accomplice who, it is feared, is preparing to detonate a bomb, or a child abductor who may have information about the child’s location on his cell phone.