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The Constitution & The Judicial Branch Discuss Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones at the Political Forums; A big, good victory for our right to privacy. And a unanimous decisions on the part of the SC Justices, ...

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Old 06-25-2014, 01:35 PM
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Default Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

A big, good victory for our right to privacy. And a unanimous decisions on the part of the SC Justices, a pretty rare event.

WASHINGTON — In a major statement on privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected from routine inspection.

The old rules, Chief Justice Roberts said, cannot be applied to “modern cellphones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

The courts have long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to protect police officers and to prevent the destruction of evidence.

But Chief Justice Roberts said neither justification made much sense in the context of cellphones. On the other side of the balance, he said, is the data contained on the typical cellphone. Ninety percent of Americans have them, he wrote, and they contain “a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives — from the mundane to the intimate.”

Even the word “cellphone” is a misnomer, he said. “They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps or newspapers,” he wrote.

Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged that the decision would make law enforcement more difficult.

“Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” he wrote. “Privacy comes at a cost.”

The court heard arguments in April in two cases on the issue, but issued a single decision.

The first case, Riley v. California, No. 13-132, arose from the arrest of David L. Riley, who was pulled over in San Diego in 2009 for having an expired auto registration. The police found loaded guns in his car and, on inspecting Mr. Riley’s smartphone, entries they associated with a street gang.

A more comprehensive search of the phone led to information that linked Mr. Riley to a shooting. He was later convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. A California appeals court said neither search had required a warrant.

The second case, United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212, involved a search of the call log of the flip phone of Brima Wurie, who was arrested in 2007 in Boston and charged with gun and drug crimes. The federal appeals court in Boston last year threw out the evidence found on Mr. Wurie’s phone.

News organizations, including The New York Times, filed a brief supporting Mr. Riley and Mr. Wurie in which they argued that cellphone searches can compromise news gathering.

The Justice Department, in its Supreme Court briefs, said cellphones are not materially different from wallets, purses and address books. Chief Justice Roberts disagreed.

“That is like saying a ride on horseback is not materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” he wrote.

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Old 06-25-2014, 01:43 PM
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Default Re: Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

I read this elsewhere but hadn't decided whether or not I wanted to post it. Good article.
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Old 06-25-2014, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

Let's hope the SC upcoming case on the NSA spying turns out the same way.

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Old 06-25-2014, 09:14 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

Cool something BOTH sides of the political spectrum agree on
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Old 06-25-2014, 10:12 PM
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Default Re: Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

Originally Posted by WallyWager View Post
A big, good victory for our right to privacy. And a unanimous decisions on the part of the SC Justices, a pretty rare event.
I am curious if this will extend to searches at the border as well.
The below cases are several months old. I hope the recent SCOTUS ruling supercedes the below...
The U.S. government can legally seize a person’s laptop, cell phone and other electronic devices without any reason of suspicion along the border, a federal judge ruled this week.

Judge Edward R. Korman in New York made the ruling (pdf) that upheld the Obama administration’s policy while dismissing a lawsuit challenging such seizures.

Korman threw out the case on two grounds: that seizures of personal electronic devices don’t occur often enough to be a concern; and that the government doesn’t need to have reasonable suspicion when it comes to taking away possessions at border checkpoints.
Top Stories - Federal Judge Rules that Border Patrol Does Not Need Reasonable Suspicion to Confiscate Laptops and Phones - AllGov - News

The government’s right to search travelers’ electronic devices at the border was upheld in a ruling released by a federal judge on Tuesday, which dismissed a lawsuit challenging this policy.
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