Slide to Unlock Without Warrant: Supreme Court Reviews Police Search of Cellphones

Law enforcement may be able to access phone contents without warrant. Photo credit

Law enforcement may be able to access phone contents without a warrant. Photo credit

Yesterday, the Supreme Court began its review of a hot issue in privacy and technology – the right of law enforcement to conduct warrantless searches of seized cellphones.

Current law allows personal possessions to be inspected without a search warrant if the individual is taken into custody with the item on their person. In the presented cases, two men were arrested– David Riley in 2009 for possession of concealed weapons, and Brima Wurie in 2007 for selling cocaine – but further investigations of information contained in their cell phones implicated them in additional criminal activity. Riley’s phone contacts and messages tied him to a gang-related drive-by shooting and enhanced his sentence, but after Wurie’s phone revealed his home location and discovery of a stash of additional drugs, his conviction was overturned when evidence obtained from the searched phone was thrown out in court.

For law enforcement, the unimpeded ability to access data on seized mobile phones would prove crucial for investigations in a digital age. The U.S. Justice Department and State of California argue in favor of the searches, identifying cell phones as a tool for criminals to communicate, record and store unlawful activity.

But privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, urge the Supreme Court to establish the requirement to obtain a warrant before investigating the personal, private space of a mobile phone, in the same way law enforcement officials would need a warrant to enter a home.

Mobile phone information already serves as powerful evidence in court, and Net Transcripts’ services can provide verbatim transcription of voicemails, phone conversations, videos, or other recorded audio obtained from cellphones for use in investigations and criminal prosecution. Net Transcripts also translates instances of Spanish or other foreign languages that appear on mobile devices, including text messages and even social media posts. Learn more about transcription solutions for law enforcement.

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One thought on “Slide to Unlock Without Warrant: Supreme Court Reviews Police Search of Cellphones

  1. […] To read more about the cases that prompted the Supreme Court ruling, view our previous post on Warrants for Cellphone Searches. […]

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