Another Court Says It's Okay For Police To Search Your Mobile Phone Without A Warrant
from the stretching-the-law dept
Three years ago we discussed the legality of police being able to search your mobile phone without a warrant after any arrest (such as, say, following a traffic violation). Allowing such searches without a warrant didn’t make much sense to us, but there were some strong feelings in the other direction as well. Two years ago, we noted that the courts still seemed divided on the issue, and now there’s another ruling as well. The California State Supreme Court has ruled that searching the contents of your mobile phone without a warrant is fine.
The judges’ argument is based on the idea that current case law allows police to seize and examine anything they find on you — such as your clothing or a cigarette package. Even if you accept that this is reasonable, to extend that to the contents of a mobile phone seems to be going too far. Similar to our concerns about border patrol being able to snoop through your laptop, accessing the contents of your mobile phone involves access to all sorts of private information. The issue is that the caselaw that the court used to make this ruling was based on stuff you actually chose to carry with you specifically. But, these days, with a smartphone that has access to the internet, and is basically a mini-computer, it’s not like you specifically select which emails/browsing history/etc. to “take with you” when you go out. So assuming those things are fair game makes little sense. Indeed, a couple of judges on the panel dissented, noting how mobile phones were quite different.
With so many courts split on this issue, it seems like only a matter of time until the federal Supreme Court decides to weigh in on this issue as well. Hopefully, the justices can understand the differences between searching stuff found on you, and being able to freely access a portal to all sorts of private info.