Warrants Needed for Cellphone Searches: A Look at a Recent Supreme Court Decision | Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet Criminal Law Attorney
When police suspect you of a crime, do they have the right to search through your Smartphone without a warrant? Smartphones and similar mobile devices often contain a wealth of information, including names and contact information for various people you know, photos, video clips, Internet activity, and text messages.
It's no wonder that police officers are often eager to get their hands on all of this information, as the evidence may serve as compelling proof of your involvement in any number of crimes.
However, the Supreme Court recently reached a decision that limits the ability of law enforcement officers to search your mobile device without a warrant. Their decision was based on two cases, one from California and the other from Massachusetts, in which police secured key evidence for convicting the defendants based on information uncovered during warrantless cellphone searches. In one case, the defendant had been arrested on suspicion of drug dealing; the police then found a phone number on his cellphone that led them to his house, where they discovered more drugs and other evidence. In the other case, a photograph found on a Smartphone was a key part of the evidence linking the defendant to a criminal incident involving guns.
The Supreme Court reached a unanimous ruling that in both of these cases, it was unconstitutional for police officers to search the mobile devices without a warrant.
According to the court, there may be some emergency situations where a search without a warrant would be permitted. (What constitutes an emergency in a given situation could be up for debate.) But in general, police officers would have to obtain a warrant first, justifying why they believe the search of a mobile device is necessary and relevant, and not just part of a broad, unfocused and spontaneous search that could yield what appears to be incriminating evidence against you.
Protecting your privacy and constitutional rights is crucial for preventing the overreach of law enforcement. If you live in or near Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Banning, Corona, Hemet or Riverside and law enforcement officers subject you to a search without a warrant, don't hesitate to contact our law firm to review your case and help ensure that your legal rights are protected. We can help!