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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Three Observations of the SCOTUS ruling today on cell phones...

I can see why SCOTUS ruled today, but I have my disagreement with it. The Constitution says nothing about cell phones. Therefore the legislature should set guidance on how police should handle this, but that's OBE. Now PoliceOne has a quick look at what cops need to know about the ruling. You can read the whole article but here are the highlights.
The Court's decision on cell phone searches: 3 things cops need to know

The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the search incident to arrest of an arrestee’s cell phone is not permissible without a warrant — except in specific emergency circumstances such as “child abduction and the threat of bombs being detonated.”...

...The decision stated that while cell phones “have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises” and have the potential to “provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” the devices are so powerful and contain so much personal information that they fall under the protection of the Fourth Amendment...

...Observation #1: In exigent circumstances such as immediate officer safety or the safety of innocent persons (per SCOTUS, child abduction, bomb threat), officers can conduct a search and be prepared explain those actions later in court...

...PoliceOne Contributor Morris Greenberg added, “This decision doesn’t preclude law enforcement of seizing a cell phone as evidence — it only precludes a warrantless search absent exigent circumstance. If articulable exigency exists, law enforcement can still search the phone without a warrant. Officers must then, of course, be prepared to defend that search in court.”

...Observations #2: Taking the time to get a search warrant for a cell phone not only protects personal privacy, but ultimately also serves to ensure that an officer’s search of a subject’s phone is not tossed out on a ‘technicality’

“The big thing is the timeliness of accessing the information on a phone,” Greenberg explained. “Stop and think about it, though. Most criminals are smart enough to password protect their phones, so the average officer rarely has immediate access to data on the phone to begin with. So timeliness is an issue either way.”

Greenberg said even before today’s decision, he believed that investigators should obtain search warrants to review and use the content of a cell phone...

...Observation # 3: In the 21st Century, the legal system will not treat cell phones as merely phones, but as Chief Justice Roberts said, they are “a digital record of nearly every aspect of [a person’s life] — from the mundane to the intimate” that can also make phone calls

Comparing a cell phone to a crumpled cigarette pack found in arrestee’s pocket (Robinson), paint chips found on arrestee’s clothing (Edwards), or the contents of a locked footlocker (Chadwick) is preposterous on its face. The typical smartphone has vastly more computing power than all of NASA’s computers combined when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 45 years ago, and Moore’s Law states that this time next year, those phones will be exponentially more powerful....

...Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “One of the most notable distinguishing features of modern cell phones is their immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and tended as a general matter to constitute only a narrow intrusion on privacy... Most people cannot lug around every piece of mail they have received for the past several months, every picture they have taken, or every book or article they have read — nor would they have any reason to attempt to do so.”

Roberts concluded, “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life...’ The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.

“Our answer,” wrote Roberts, “to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

It's early in this process so more will come out. Basically, just get a warrant to cover your ass.

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