The Supreme Court will decide whether police need a warrant to search Americans’ cellphones after an arrest, San Diego’s The Daily Transcript reported Monday. Court officials will attempt to answer a question that comes up again and again: is searching a cellphone more akin to searching a wallet or a private residence?
“A cellphone has the same contents that the home did in the founding era, it has digital equivalents of papers, letters, drawings, private financial documents, private medical documents,” legal expert Jim Harper weighs in. “It’s a digital incarnation of the contents of the home.”
Others, however, argue that it is just like investigating any other items on someone’s person.
“Encryption technology and remote wiping already make it hard enough for police to glean evidence from cell phones before it’s destroyed,” MSNBC continues.
The Supreme Court decision will follow two notable cases — Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie. In the first, police searched college student David Riley’s smartphone without a warrant. Pictures on his smartphone linked Riley to a shooting, and police convicted him of the crime. A state court ruled in favor of the decision. InUnited States v. Wurie, law enforcement discovered a firearm and drugs in Brima Wurie’s Boston home, also after searching his cellphone. A high court dropped two of the three charges against Wurie, citing the unlawful search of his phone.
“More than anything, it’ll be nice to finally have some clarity [on the issues] because it is one of those issues that has led to a whole range of different decisions from state to state and federal court to federal court,” Alex Kreit, a law professor, tells The Daily Transcript.
The final ruling will be announced in June.