FRANKLYWNOW - High Court Says Police Need A Warrant For Most Cellphone Searche

High Court Says Police Need A Warrant For Most Cellphone Searches

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that unless police have a warrant, they generally cannot search data on a cellphone seized from someone who has been arrested.

The decision is seen as a sweeping win for privacy advocates.

"Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans 'the privacies of life.'

As NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reported in April:

"The courts have long allowed police to search people without a warrant when making an arrest. But those searches have been limited by the amount of information individuals could carry on their persons.

"Now, suddenly, with the advent of the smartphone, allowing a search of that phone without a warrant allows police to search more information than most people keep in their houses."

The first of two related cases, Riley v. California, centered on David Riley, who was pulled over in 2009 in San Diego for driving with expired tags. As Nina reported:

"When his car was impounded and inventoried, police found guns under the hood. An initial search of Riley's cellphone indicated he might be involved in gang activity.

"Two hours later, a gang investigator went through the digital files and downloaded contacts, videos and photos. Some of that information was later used to convict Riley of several felonies."

Riley's lawyer told the court in April that the Founding Fathers hadn't intended such wide-ranging warrantless searches. But the state of California and the Obama administration had contended that cellphones should have no greater protection than other objects police find.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court disagreed.

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