Searching the cellphones of those arrested is available only after a search warrant, the US Supreme Court has ruled in a decision welcomed by those concerned about privacy in the age of digital communication.
The Chief Justice, John Roberts referred to the power of cell phones, saying because they contain so much information the police need to have a warrant before hunting through their digital data.
“Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Roberts said.
The court chose not to extend earlier rulings that allow police to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.
The Obama administration and the state of California, defending the cellphone searches, said cellphones should have no greater protection from a search than anything else police find.
But the defendants in these cases, backed by civil libertarians, librarians and news media groups, argued that cellphones, especially smartphones, are increasingly powerful computers that can store troves of sensitive personal information.
In the cases decided Wednesday, one defendant carried a smartphone, while the other carried an older flip phone.
Read more at Associated Press.