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SCOTUS Finds Searches of Cell Phones Require Warrant

Written by: Kimberly G. Krupka on June 26, 2014 | Category: Blog | Tags:

On June 25, 2014, the United States Supreme Court, in the cases of Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, found that police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone pursuant to an arrest seizure.  Generally, when someone is stopped for a traffic violation, the police may conduct a warrantless search of the individual subject during the arrest.  This search extends to the contents of the arrestee’s pockets, and even to the interior contents of cigarette packages as such may contain items of potential harm to the police.  However, the Supreme Court has found that while the police may search the arrestee for a cell phone and confiscate the same, the police may not search the data on the cell phone.  In today’s technological age, such data often includes photographs, videos, text messages, e-mails, and phone directories.  In reaching this decision, the Court found it necessary to balance the degree of intrusion into individual privacy with the need for promotion of legitimate government interests.  As the data on cell phones can be protected until a warrant is secured, personal privacy won.

Attorney Kimberly Krupka is a member of the firm’s Litigation Group and regularly practices before Pennsylvania State and Federal courts.

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