pictureThe 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.


  1. Hmm, exceptions. That’s usually where these things get muddled.

    Hope this still gives me the right to permit an officer to search my phone, in the case of an accident or medical emergency for example.

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