Supreme Court Justices: 'Get a warrant' to search cellphones - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Supreme Court Justices: 'Get a warrant' to search cellphones

Posted: Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a strong defense of digital age privacy, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police may not generally search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

Cellphones are powerful devices unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court. Because the phones contain so much information, police must get a warrant before looking through them, Roberts said.

"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 message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cellphone's contents following an arrest is simple. "Get a warrant," Roberts said.

The chief justice acknowledged that barring searches would affect law enforcement, but said: "Privacy comes at a cost."

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.

"By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today's decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans," American Civil Liberties Union legal director Steven Shapiro said.

In the cases decided Wednesday, one defendant carried a smartphone, while the other carried an older flip phone.

Roberts said the comparison to packages of cigarettes and other items that were at issue in the earlier cases is not apt.

A ride on horseback and a flight to the moon both "are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together," he said.

Authorities concerned about the destruction of evidence can take steps to prevent the remote erasure of a phone's contents or the activation of encryption, Roberts said.

One exception to the warrant requirement left open by the decision is a case in which officers reasonably fear for their safety or the lives of others.

Justice Samuel Alito joined in the judgment, but wrote separately to say he would prefer elected lawmakers, not judges, decide matters of privacy protection in the 21st century. Elected officials "are in a better position than we are to assess and respond to the changes that have already occurred and those that almost certainly will take place in the future," Alito said.

The two cases arose after arrests in San Diego and Boston.

In San Diego, police found indications of gang membership when they looked through defendant David Leon Riley's Samsung smartphone. Prosecutors used video and photographs found on the smartphone to persuade a jury to convict Riley of attempted murder and other charges. California courts rejected Riley's efforts to throw out the evidence and upheld the convictions.

The court ordered the California Supreme Court to take a new look at Riley's case.

In Boston, a federal appeals court ruled that police must have a warrant before searching arrestees' cellphones.

Police arrested Brima Wurie on suspicion of selling crack cocaine, checked the call log on his flip phone and used that information to determine where he lived. When they searched Wurie's home and had a warrant, they found crack, marijuana, a gun and ammunition. The evidence was enough to produce a conviction and a prison term of more than 20 years.

The appeals court ruled for Wurie, but left in place a drug conviction for selling cocaine near a school that did not depend on the tainted evidence. That conviction also carried a 20-year sentence. The administration appealed the court ruling because it wants to preserve the warrantless searches following arrest.

The justices upheld that ruling.

The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132, and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212.

___

Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • What's up with that? Status of Birmingham's bond referendum and roads

    What's up with that? Status of Birmingham's bond referendum and roads

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 5:21 PM EDT2014-08-27 21:21:36 GMT
    In ABC 33/40's daily "What's Up with That Post" on Facebook, a viewer asked about the bumpy conditions on some of Birmingham's roads. Citywide resurfacing has been completed as part of the city's 2012 bond referendum, ABC 33/40 has learned. But other work is slated to be underway this year and in 2015. Below is a list of projects. Tune into ABC 33/40 at 6 for the full report.Calico Winewood Culvert Extension:Construction bid date September 2014Target Completion April 2015Killough Springs Road...More >>
    In ABC 33/40's daily "What's Up with That Post" on Facebook, a viewer asked about the bumpy conditions on some of Birmingham's roads. Citywide resurfacing has been completed as part of the city's 2012 bond referendum, ABC 33/40 has learned. But other work is slated to be underway this year and in 2015. Below is a list of projects. Tune into ABC 33/40 at 6 for the full report.Calico Winewood Culvert Extension:Construction bid date September 2014Target Completion April 2015Killough Springs Road...More >>
  • Pelham High School to make $310K in landscape improvements

    Pelham High School to make $310K in landscape improvements

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 4:23 PM EDT2014-08-27 20:23:56 GMT
    Pelham High SchoolPelham High School
    Curb appeal is on the mind of Pelham City School leaders. That's why they're looking to spend more than $300,000 for landscaping at Pelham High School. The hillside along Bearden Road is going to be transformed. Soon, pine trees and other shrubbery will be planted. There's going to be a new drainage system for irrigation. Also a new sign for the school. The idea, is to make a good first impression to those who drive by the school. "It's pretty easy to at first glance say, 310,000 dollars t...More >>
    Curb appeal is on the mind of Pelham City School leaders. That's why they're looking to spend more than $300,000 for landscaping at Pelham High School. The hillside along Bearden Road is going to be transformed. Soon, pine trees and other shrubbery will be planted. There's going to be a new drainage system for irrigation. Also a new sign for the school. The idea, is to make a good first impression to those who drive by the school. "It's pretty easy to at first glance say, 310,000 dollars t...More >>
  • BJCC releases new parking plan before closing of spaces under I-20/59 bridge

    BJCC releases new parking plan before closing of spaces under I-20/59 bridge

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-08-27 19:33:16 GMT
    The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex has released its new parking plan ahead of the September 2 closing of some 400 parking spaces under the downtown I-20/59 bridges, ABC 33/40 has learned.More >>
    The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex has released its new parking plan ahead of the September 2 closing of some 400 parking spaces under the downtown I-20/59 bridges, ABC 33/40 has learned.
    More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Gadsden reelects Mayor Guyton, approves Sunday alcohol sales

    Gadsden reelects Mayor Guyton, approves Sunday alcohol sales

    Gadsden reelects Mayor Guyton, approves Sunday alcohol sales

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 8:55 AM EDT2014-08-27 12:55:56 GMT
    Gadsden's Mayor Sherman Guyton wins reelection with 56% of the votes. The city also voted in favor of Sunday alcohol sales with over a 2-1 ratio; 68% to 32%.More >>
    Gadsden's Mayor Sherman Guyton wins reelection with 56% of the votes. The city also voted in favor of Sunday alcohol sales with over a 2-1 ratio; 68% to 32%.More >>
  • Anniston police and fire departments downsized by proposed budget cuts

    Anniston police and fire departments downsized by proposed budget cuts

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 8:01 PM EDT2014-08-27 00:01:02 GMT
    The Anniston city manager's proposed budget for 2015 cuts more than $1.5-million in spending compared to this year. The police and fire chiefs are concerned about the cuts to public safety.More >>
    The Anniston city manager's proposed budget for 2015 cuts more than $1.5-million in spending compared to this year. The police and fire chiefs are concerned about the cuts to public safety.
    More >>
  • Third anniversary of murder of Anniston police officer

    Third anniversary of murder of Anniston police officer

    Monday, August 25 2014 8:44 PM EDT2014-08-26 00:44:45 GMT
    The family of Justin Sollohub took him off of life support three years ago Monday. "He lived from the 24th to the 25th for the organ donation," Jeniffer Morris said about her son. "Organ donation needs to be important to everybody. We never know, when there's somebody in our [family], when it hits home, that somebody needs an organ. It is important to us but it needs to be important to everybody."More >>
    The family of Justin Sollohub took him off of life support three years ago Monday. "He lived from the 24th to the 25th for the organ donation," Jeniffer Morris said about her son. "Organ donation needs to be important to everybody. We never know, when there's somebody in our [family], when it hits home, that somebody needs an organ. It is important to us but it needs to be important to everybody."More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • What's up with that? Status of Birmingham's bond referendum and roads

    What's up with that? Status of Birmingham's bond referendum and roads

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 5:21 PM EDT2014-08-27 21:21:36 GMT
    In ABC 33/40's daily "What's Up with That Post" on Facebook, a viewer asked about the bumpy conditions on some of Birmingham's roads. Citywide resurfacing has been completed as part of the city's 2012 bond referendum, ABC 33/40 has learned. But other work is slated to be underway this year and in 2015. Below is a list of projects. Tune into ABC 33/40 at 6 for the full report.Calico Winewood Culvert Extension:Construction bid date September 2014Target Completion April 2015Killough Springs Road...More >>
    In ABC 33/40's daily "What's Up with That Post" on Facebook, a viewer asked about the bumpy conditions on some of Birmingham's roads. Citywide resurfacing has been completed as part of the city's 2012 bond referendum, ABC 33/40 has learned. But other work is slated to be underway this year and in 2015. Below is a list of projects. Tune into ABC 33/40 at 6 for the full report.Calico Winewood Culvert Extension:Construction bid date September 2014Target Completion April 2015Killough Springs Road...More >>
  • California beach town sees flooding from hurricane

    California beach town sees flooding from hurricane

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 4:38 PM EDT2014-08-27 20:38:46 GMT
    The surf was churning in Southern California, and even bigger waves were brewing.More >>
    Thundering surf spawned by a Pacific hurricane pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town, knocking pilings from under the Malibu Pier and drawing daredevil surfers...More >>
  • Alabama Forestry Commission: Wildfire in Adger contained, 264 acres burned

    Alabama Forestry Commission: Wildfire in Adger contained, 264 acres burned

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 4:34 PM EDT2014-08-27 20:34:05 GMT
    A nearly two-day-old wildfire in west Jefferson County has been contained, but not before it scorched 264 acres of land, a spokesperson with the Alabama Forestry Commission tells ABC 33/40.More >>
    A nearly two-day-old wildfire in west Jefferson County has been contained, but not before it scorched 264 acres of land, a spokesperson with the Alabama Forestry Commission tells ABC 33/40.
    More >>
  • Pelham High School to make $310K in landscape improvements

    Pelham High School to make $310K in landscape improvements

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 4:23 PM EDT2014-08-27 20:23:56 GMT
    Pelham High SchoolPelham High School
    Curb appeal is on the mind of Pelham City School leaders. That's why they're looking to spend more than $300,000 for landscaping at Pelham High School. The hillside along Bearden Road is going to be transformed. Soon, pine trees and other shrubbery will be planted. There's going to be a new drainage system for irrigation. Also a new sign for the school. The idea, is to make a good first impression to those who drive by the school. "It's pretty easy to at first glance say, 310,000 dollars t...More >>
    Curb appeal is on the mind of Pelham City School leaders. That's why they're looking to spend more than $300,000 for landscaping at Pelham High School. The hillside along Bearden Road is going to be transformed. Soon, pine trees and other shrubbery will be planted. There's going to be a new drainage system for irrigation. Also a new sign for the school. The idea, is to make a good first impression to those who drive by the school. "It's pretty easy to at first glance say, 310,000 dollars t...More >>
  • BJCC releases new parking plan before closing of spaces under I-20/59 bridge

    BJCC releases new parking plan before closing of spaces under I-20/59 bridge

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-08-27 19:33:16 GMT
    The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex has released its new parking plan ahead of the September 2 closing of some 400 parking spaces under the downtown I-20/59 bridges, ABC 33/40 has learned.More >>
    The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex has released its new parking plan ahead of the September 2 closing of some 400 parking spaces under the downtown I-20/59 bridges, ABC 33/40 has learned.
    More >>
  • Chilton County pastor files lawsuit over state law that shut down church camp for sex offenders

    Chilton County pastor files lawsuit over state law that shut down church camp for sex offenders

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 3:11 PM EDT2014-08-27 19:11:05 GMT
    An Alabama pastor has filed suit claiming a state law that forced him to shut down a church camp for sex offenders violates his constitutional rights.More >>
    An Alabama pastor has filed suit claiming a state law that forced him to shut down a church camp for sex offenders violates his constitutional rights.
    More >>
  • Samford coach Pat Sullivan will not travel with team to TCU

    Samford coach Pat Sullivan will not travel with team to TCU

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 2:59 PM EDT2014-08-27 18:59:15 GMT
    Samford football coach Pat Sullivan will miss Saturday's season opener against TCU. The school announced that Sullivan has been advised against traveling by doctors while he recovers from offseason surgery."Unfortunately I will not be able to make the trip with my Samford team this weekend for our game against TCU," Sullivan said in a statement released through the school. "My doctors have advised me not to travel at this time due to a complication from a surgery earlier this year. We have an...More >>
    Samford football coach Pat Sullivan will miss Saturday's season opener against TCU. The school announced that Sullivan has been advised against traveling by doctors while he recovers from offseason surgery."Unfortunately I will not be able to make the trip with my Samford team this weekend for our game against TCU," Sullivan said in a statement released through the school. "My doctors have advised me not to travel at this time due to a complication from a surgery earlier this year. We have an...More >>
  • Former 5-star SEC recruits set for breakout seasons

    Former 5-star SEC recruits set for breakout seasons

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 2:53 PM EDT2014-08-27 18:53:36 GMT
    Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and Alabama running back Derrick Henry look to have breakout seasons in 2014...More >>
    Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and Alabama running back Derrick Henry look to have breakout seasons in 2014...
    More >>