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Does the Supreme Court Believe in the Requirement of a Warrant with Respect to Cell Phone Searches?

Often, it has been noticed that two different courts might have two different or even contradictory opinions on something such as mobile phone searches. During such a scenario when two or more circuit courts have a difference of opinion on any particular legal issue, the Supreme Court has to solve the matter by implementing a single rule for the whole country. By granting a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States stands as the sole court which can overturn the decision provided by the Circuit Court of Appeals in matters which are under the jurisdiction of the federal court. Now, with respect to the cell phone searches, there is a writ certiorari before the Supreme Court that the court must hear in its next term.

Cell phone searches have become a pressing concern with regard to the investigation of any incident involving a lawful arrest. According to Chimel v. California, the Supreme Court described an exception to the requirement in a warrant, in the case of a police arrest, which enables the police to search anyone without a warrant. According to Judge Posner, under the Seventh Circuit including Chicago, stated in the court’s opinion that the incident involving the cell phone search will be considered justified where the search is restricted to the address book or contact numbers of the phone. The First Circuit holds that the mobile phones are similar to the other closed containers which indicated that if the person who is arrested is kept safely secured from the container, there should be no exception, and the police should acquire a search warrant.

So, it is evident that the two circuits have given some opinions that were quite contradictory to each other, especially on this particular subject which will definitely further develop with the proliferation of mobile phones. It can be understood what the Seventh Circuit is trying to point out, that if the search is restricted, it would be reasonable, but there have been instances where law enforcement searches have overreached. There are ways in which it can be assured that no evidence or data has been removed from the phone, if the concern is regarding the loss of data while the phone is in the custody of the police. It is not quite credible to say that people will not possess important interests concerning privacy when it comes to their mobile phones. Imagine everything that is stored on your smartphone. You must have private messages, financial details, or other confidential and personal information on the phone. If one needs a proper warrant to search one’s luggage when you are separated from it, then the cell phone is liable to receive equal importance if not more. And that is why the seriousness of the matter demands the review of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court did rule on one aspect of this matter in June of 2018. Their 5-4 decision stated that police must obtain a search warrant to access someone’s cell phone location information. This is a new limit on the data police are able to get in our world of increasing smartphone usage.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his written statement for the court majority, stated that cell phone location information is almost perfect for governments to use to surveil people. He compared it to an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, a tool that many jurisdictions use in lieu of jail time for certain offenders. Roberts wrote that people have an expectation of privacy as to their whereabouts, and that the government must, therefore, obtain a warrant before being allowed to access that data.

So, have you been accused of a criminal offense and arrested for it? If yes, then you must not delay and retain the best legal representation from an experienced, reputed, and credible Pittsburgh criminal lawyer. Contact us at the earliest to get a free consultation or any other help that you seek from us.

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