Supreme Court Considers Immediate Search of Phones After Arrest - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Supreme Court Considers Immediate Search of Phones After Arrest

Posted: Updated:

If some in law enforcement get their way, police will no longer need a warrant to search a phone after its owner has been arrested.

Though that has been required by the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court heard arguments today about how immediate searches would help police gather evidence. 

The debate has spurred a lot of conversation about whether or not authorities should have such easy access to a device with an immense amount of personal information. Despite this, 54 percent of Americans do not use any form of privacy protection on their cell phones, according to Blueprint IT Solutions Senior Network Engineer Brian Schott:

"Whether it be a password or a gesture swipe like the Androids have," he says.

He says those people are putting themselves at risk.

"All of your personal information, your emails, your contacts, your text messages. All of this is available to anybody that would pick up your cell phone and just swipe to open," says Schott.

Schott recommends setting passwords for your SIM card and also encrypting the contents of your phone in case someone tried plugging it into a computer. But what if you want to lock your phone down so no one has access to your data? He recommends free software like "Prey," which allows you to lock your phone remotely on their website.

"It allows them to actually see where their phone is located through GPS. The phone will take pictures using both the front and back cameras," he says.

You can also activate a siren and a message on your screen that won't shut off. Apple devices also feature a piece of built in software that will wipe the device if the wrong password is entered too many times.

Valley News Live took the Supreme Court conversation to West Acres Mall for some local opinion on searches without warrants... Aruna Hagen from Fargo sees nothing wrong with it:

"If you're arrested for something, definitely you're doing something wrong, anyways, so I'm OK. If officer wants to check the phone, go ahead," she says.

Fargo's Cole Halde, on the other hand, isn't so sure about it:

"Just as they need a warrant to come into my house, I feel they should need a warrant to search my phone. It's my personal belonging, my personal information is all on there," he says.


The Supreme Court is considering whether police may search cell phones found on people they arrest without first getting a warrant.

The court’s latest foray into the issue of privacy in the digital age involves two cases being argued Tuesday that arose from searches of phones carried by a gang member and a drug dealer. Police looked through their cell phones after taking the suspects into custody and found evidence that led to their convictions and lengthy prison terms.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that police can empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence. The Obama administration and the state of California, defending the searches, say cellphones should have no greater protection from a search than anything else police find.

But the defendants in these cases, backed by an array of civil libertarians, librarians and news media groups, contend that cellphones, especially smartphones, are increasingly powerful computers that can store enormous quantities of sensitive personal information. They say that officer safety is not an issue and that police can take steps to protect a phone’s contents from being wiped clean without also conducting a warrantless search.

The issue is of more than passing concern for many people. More than 90 percent of Americans own at least one cellphone, the Pew Research Center says, and the majority of those are smartphones. More than 12 million people were arrested in the U.S. in 2012, according to FBI statistics.

Lawyer Jeffrey Fisher, representing a San Diego gang member, said arrests even for such minor violations as jaywalking and littering may subject someone to a cellphone search. The administration said cellphones are an important tool in the commission of crimes.

In the two cases, David Leon Riley of San Diego carried a Samsung smartphone, while Brima Wurie of Boston had a less advanced flip phone.

Prosecutors used video and photographs found on Riley’s smartphone to persuade a jury to convict him of attempted murder and other charges. Officers who arrested Wurie on suspicion of selling crack cocaine checked the call log on his flip phone and used that information to determine where he lived. When they searched Wurie’s home, armed with a warrant, they found crack cocaine, marijuana, a gun and ammunition.

Under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, police generally need a warrant before they can conduct a search. The warrant itself must be based on “probable cause,” evidence that a crime has been committed. But in the early 1970s, the Supreme Court carved out exceptions for officers dealing with people they have arrested.

The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132, and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by 

WorldNowAll content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and Valley News Live. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.