Phillip A. Linder
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Updating and upholding privacy

We live in a world that makes it easy for us to digitally share news, thoughts, family photos and much more. The digital age has also made it easier for law enforcement agencies to gather information by searching cellphones, laptops, tablets, cameras and other electronic devices.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that those searches by police can only be carried out with a warrant issued by a judge, the Dalls Morning News reported. It strengthens the court’s ruling two years ago that the FBI could not attach a GPS device to a suspected drug dealer’s car without first obtaining a search warrant. 

Chief Justice John Roberts said, “cellphones are not just another technological device.” They have changed the way we live, he said, enabling the more than 90 percent of adults who own cellphones to have with them “a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives — from the mundane to the intimate.”

It’s a record that the court recognizes as private, unless officials get a judge to authorize a warrant.

While police will continue to be able to search a person for weapons, drugs, stolen items and the like, the ruling makes clear that they should no longer consider a cellphone just another physical object subject to their on-the-spot scrutiny. Because phones contain “vast of personal information,” Roberts said, they “(bear) little resemblance to the type of brief physical search” the court had approved of in 1973.  

It’s a landmark decision that will have an impact on many people accused of crimes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help those arrested or suspected of crimes to understand how the ruling might affect their situations.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "U.S. Supreme Court rules police cellphone searches require warrant," June 25, 2014

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