U.S. Supreme Court Rules: Police Need Warrants for Cell Phone Data

Hold the phone! Your mobile device is now off limits to police without a warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that police must have a warrant in order to search your cell phone, refuting arguments by law enforcement that a cell phone search is similar to looking in your wallet.

The opinion states, “modern cell phones…implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.” While searches conducted without a warrant have been justified in the past in order to protect law enforcement from hidden weapons or prevent evidence from being destroyed by a suspect, that reasoning does not apply to digital data on a cell phone.

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Brian Morley spoke with Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan’s Big Show, noting that police may still search a suspect’s cell phone without a warrant in exigent circumstances, such as a terror threat.

“The fundamental distinction in the Supreme Court opinion, however, is that data on a cellular telephone clearly poses no threat to the health and safety of law enforcement,” said Morley. “In rendering its decision, especially a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court has shown that while technology continues to advance beyond anything the founding fathers could have imagined, an individual’s privacy interests remain protected.”

For more information on this ruling, or other criminal or family law concerns, contact Lansing attorney Brian Morley at 517.377.0873, or bmorley@fraserlawfirm.com. Brian Morley is a skilled attorney specializing in criminal defense and family law, with the added experience of nearly a decade as a certified police officer. He was recently selected by peers for inclusion once again in The Best Lawyers in America© 2014 in the field of DUI/DWI Defense.