Can Police Search Your Cell Phone Without A Warrant? The Supreme Court Is About To Decide

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Two very important cases related to the 4th Amendment protection of cellphone data went before the Supreme Court yesterday. At issue here is whether or not police can search someone’s cellphone upon arrest. As usual, the Obama administration’s Justice Department is arguing against the citizenry, and in favor of the (police) state. Let’s not forget that the “Justice” Department also argued in favor of the police being able to place GPS tracking devices on people’s cars without a warrant back in 2011. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled against it.

Naturally, the feds in the current case will discuss all of the criminals they were able to bring to justice as a result of these privacy violations, but they will certainly not point out America’s current epidemic of unlawful arrests, as well as arrests for petty non-violent crimes that happen each and every day. For instance, let’s not forget statistics that came out last fall from the FBI that showed police make an arrest every two seconds in the USA. I covered this in detail in my post: Land of the Free: American Police Make an Arrest Every 2 Seconds in 2012.

That translates to 12.2 million arrests in 2012, only 521,196 of which were for violent crimes. So should cops be able to search cellphones of millions of Americans being arrested for non-violent crimes such as drug possession? Or what about the street artist in NYC who was unlawfully arrested for putting on a puppet show? Or the guy who’s house was raided by police for a parody Twitter account. Allowing cops to search cellphones upon arrest in a trigger happy police state seems barbaric, immoral and downright stupid to me.

Furthermore, isn’t it interesting that the feds appear so obsessed with taking away your civil liberties to catch petty criminals, yet they couldn’t put a single banker behind bars for the far more egregious crime of destroying the U.S. economy and ruining millions of lives?

Here are some excerpts from The New York Times article to help you get up to speed on what’s at stake:

WASHINGTON — In a major test of how to interpret the Fourth Amendment in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider two cases about whether the police need warrants to search the cellphones of the people they arrest.


“The implications of these cases are huge,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, noting that about 12 million people are arrested every year, often for minor offenses, and that about 90 percent of Americans have cellphones.


The justices will have to decide how to apply an 18th-century phrase — the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of “unreasonable searches and seizures” — to devices that can contain 100 times more information than is in the Library of Congress’s 72,000-page collection of James Madison’s papers.


Others say there must be a different standard because of the sheer amount of data on and available through cellphones. In February, for instance, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals suppressed evidence found on the phone of a high school student who was arrested on charges of causing a disturbance on a school bus. “Searching a person’s cellphone,” the court said, “is like searching his home desk, computer, bank vault and medicine cabinet all at once.”


Officials in California told the justices that searches are required because cellphones can be used to set off bombs. Mr. Riley’s lawyers responded that “this scarcely resonates as an everyday concern.”

Oh yeah, destroy privacy rights for 320 million people because a phone could potentially trigger a bomb. You can’t get much more stupid and pathetic than that argument.

In any event, the Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday, and from what I can gather the justices appear somewhat split. The conservative justices seem to side with the feds, while the liberal justices appear on the side of privacy. Professor Orin Kerr of The George Washington University Law School wrote in The Washington Post that he expects a middle-ground rule, which would make searches legal in some cases and illegal in others.

On a related note, the Pennsylvania state supreme court just ruled against civil liberties with regard to warrantless car searches. Whereas in the past police would need a warrant in all cases unless there were “exigent circumstances,” now the supposed smell of pot or a dog signaling for a search is good enough. This is extremely concerning given the fact that often times such “probable cause” is a bullshit excuse to violate your rights and no drugs are ever found. The viral video from Tennessee on Independence Day last year is a case in point. Recall: Extremely Powerful Video: Happy 4th of July from a Police State Checkpoint.

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Totentänzerlied's picture

Gotta make sure everyone is properly terrified of cellphone bombs, even though influenza, diarrhea, automobile accidents, and house fires each kill far more Americans per year than bombs.

American sheepizens's so-called "rights": the ultimate soft target.

smlbizman's picture

you know.....if it saves 1 child ....

chumbawamba's picture

My solution is to have a lockbox in my car.  If I am ever pulled over, I put my cellphone in the lockbox.  A cop has to get a warrant to open a locked container in a car, and they can only get a warrant based upon reasonable suspicion that the contents of the locked container contain evidence of a crime.

From personal experience I would definitely recommend a lockbox with a combination lock.  You don't want to be fumbling with keys as you are being pulled over at night.

I am Chumbawamba.

PacOps's picture

MicroBioVault MVB500 handgun safe

Much faster than combinations or keys.

Mount it (bolts) thru the passenger side floorboard.

A Nanny Moose's picture

With your phone in a safe, you better get some dashcams to capture video the cops forcing your fingers to the Bio-lock....or cutting off your hands. /snicker.

derek_vineyard's picture

anything recorded anywhere on any device is now fair game.  thank you: national basketball association with assist from the PC police and the pathetic white ass kissers

A Nanny Moose's picture

All data should be encrypted while stored, and in transit.

Oldwood's picture

I can't find shit anymore, on my phone or computer. Maybe we can subscribe to the NSA or other federal branch for something like a GPS of our data. When it all comes down to it, ultimately our government will be the ONLY source of data as they are the only bonafide out there. If they say you did this or that, you will have no other source of information to counter it. Their word will be GOD.

Tale2cities's picture

Yea who needs Lifelock when we have the NSA

El Vaquero's picture

Except for personal contacts, I keep no personal information on my phone.  And it is encrypted and I can lock the screen.  Not that those steps will help if the encryption was done using one of the NSA weakened algorithms and they send it to the NSA, but if it stays within the local PDs, it is probably fine.  See, I want my phone avaliable to stream live video if I am in the middle of a police encounter.  One fellow here who was using a camera had his video erased in the evidence room, but was lucky enough to be able to recover it.  To me, streaming is a must in this day and age because of that.

krispkritter's picture

Somebody posted this awhile back:

I've seen others on the market but it makes you wonder if they are really secure.

Tom Terrific's picture

That's ridiculous.  As soon as they see you fumbling around with something on the seat or floorboard as they're pulling you over they will assume you have a gun, and then when they see you have a locked box they will definitely confiscate it and have it opened before the next morning while your ass is sitting in a jail cell or in the morgue when they think you have "a gun" and "feel frightened."

Oldwood's picture

I suppose a real terrorist would just blow themselves up if stopped.

War_is_Peace's picture

My solution is to follow the words of the Fourth Amendment that, in my opinion, are pretty fucking clear.


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Skateboarder's picture

El QueDuh uses cell phones. You use cell phones. Therefore you are El QueDuh. Game over kid.

Slave's picture

Kinda like that probable cause they suddenly have that I'm a terrist when I buy a plane ticket......

Bill of Rights's picture
Police issue citation to kids playing with Nerf guns Happened in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Actually, the issue here appears to be bigger than Nerf guns.

Apparently all it takes to warrant a citation for disorderly conduct today is to be a kid playing outside and be just loud enough for a neighbor to notice.

Redhotfill's picture

Yeah....  "It's for the children"

Caveman93's picture

Or...have to crack my password first in order to "search it". 

Skateboarder's picture

Easy. They'll beat it out of you.

oddball's picture

Can someone please turn on some motherfucking N.W.A



Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

Most of these Police State issues are hardly worth discussing until American men grow some testicles.

Skateboarder's picture

The bigger your titties, the smaller your balls. I don't got tits, so my balls must be the right size.

intric8's picture

Most are in the process of being emasculated. How many folk have already been conditioned with the response "i have nothing to hide"? Hardly anyone's thinking anymore. Ball sacks are being cut off left and right while everyones in a deep slumber to the real serious issues. The're dreaming of facebook likes for their comments, a massive twitter following, a dream home, how to make their ass look like kim k, hooking up, chicks. Personal liberties only become a concern when its suddenly their phone getting confinscated. All these fools around us are the reason for our liberties being destroyed because they're sheeple!

james.connolly's picture

"I have NOTHING for you to steal"

Once they  see that is true, ... then there is nothing,

Hell its even in their interest to arrest you and have you feed a defense lawyer and enrich THEIR criminal justice system.

"I have nothing to steal, I'm a member of the FREE SHIT ARMY"

"If you want my food stamps, you can have my food stamps"


Make the job hard for the cop and he will fuck you hard. Best to just be honest smile, but have NOTHING on your person that give him any justification to remember you, or think any thing of you other than  you are a loser.

El Vaquero's picture

If people don't start asserting their rights, and hard, we will lose what little we have left.  Record any police encounter you have, and go into it with the understanding that, if the cop doesn't relent, you aren't going to kick his ass in court once, you are going to kick it twice.  Civil suits can take years, and they can be very stressful, especially for the defendant.

james.connolly's picture

You don't know what your talking about.

You file a claim against the GOVERNMENT, and you lose, and you will get a bill for court-costs they will put a lien against every bank-account and property you may own.

They will clean you, bleed you,

Lawyers don't work PRO-BONO in the real-world, in the real world you have to pay a retainer to FIGHT the system, 99% of lawyers will NOT fight the system, because almost all court cases are QUID-PRO-QUO, meaning that the judge settles with lawyers outside of the court-room all trials are just for show.

The lawyers will not sue the government, because that will piss off the judges and once you piss off the judges then you can no longer make deals.

File a CRIMINAL complaint against the COP shop, and when you LOSE, and you will, they will take you for every dime you have on the earth.

El Vaquero's picture

I've been through the court system without a lawyer and come out unscathed.  Have you?

A Nanny Moose's picture

I hope you washed thoroughly afterward. Nobody comes away completely clean after dealing with any government agency.

N2OJoe's picture

Bank? Land?

If they find my cash stash in my landlord's yard or PM's at the bottom of the Gulf, then they spent WAY more than they're worth and can have them.

Tale2cities's picture

Contact your local ACLU chapter. We will do it pro bono.

Oldwood's picture

As a Texas gubernatorial candidate once said, when you find yourself being raped you might as well lay back and enjoy it. Well, he didn't win...anything. I always wondered if he was laying back and enjoying "it" after he had raped himself. All we can do is resist, and NEVER enjoy it. They are fucking us in every way but also offering us "treats" in the process, be it direct payments or simply the technology which we have all become dependent upon. There has been no advancement in our technologies that have not first and above all things been used to monitor and control us. We constantly hear how our tax dollars are being used to make these advancements. We are building the prisons for our futures.

james.connolly's picture

Never in all USA history did the peasants have 'balls',

Probably the biggest fucking MYTH of USA hegemony is that the US men are responsible for USA superiority,

The UK and LORD BALFOUR and Cecil Rhodes, they had ball's, and they took the USA, a failed penal colony, and turned it into a factory and a mercenary army.

Never in all USA history did the MEN ever stand up, never happened and never will.


All you can do is have nothing for the cop, no car, no phone, no computer, ... nothing, ... just make it appear your a greeter at Walmart, and he'll quickly move on to a more profitable GRIFT.


Make no mistake that searching your phone and computer, they're looking for assets to steal.

Tale2cities's picture

You know. I always wondered. Why is that the men of the UK put up with having a royal family? Why don't they demand a republic?
Is it because they don't have the balls?

mkhs's picture

I think the correct term is bollocks, but I only slept in a vacation inn or somethin.

Bangin7GramRocks's picture

Too late. The war is over and the terrorists won. Osama and his band of hairy engineers have turned this once great country into a police state. "They" can't hate us for our freedoms anymore. We don't have any left.

IridiumRebel's picture

Need a new App: "Make my phone look broken". Puts the blue screen of death for an hour or so. "Sorry sir, it just went blue!"

Edit: or an app that makes your phone look like a bomb timer.

deflator's picture

They have the encryption keys for every hard drive, even drive controllers that support the secure erase command...It's the law.

IridiumRebel's picture

Yeah but getting a warrant takes time and shit.

deflator's picture

 Their machines do not need warrants regardless of the, "supreme court" decision.

zhandax's picture

"Need a new App: "Make my phone look broken". Puts the blue screen of death for an hour or so."

Port it over from Windoz.  It's been available for years.

Tom Terrific's picture

Hate to ruin your party, but the device they have clones the entire flash memory as a whole and then they can work on it all they like "back at the office."

TBT or not TBT's picture

For a bomb you'd like cops to use the Jack Bauer rule: "there's no time!!!". But it just about never is a bomb threat or any immediate danger.

Emergency Ward's picture

It's a jaywalker --  beat-down and anal-cavity search, NOW, no time to waste !!

pods's picture

Almost makes you think that TV is desensitizing and programming you?

As a TV watcher, you know who is guilty before the tv cops, so when they start to "bend" the rules, you agree with them.

Pretty slick marketing technique. That is why Law and Order or any other crime drama is not allowed on TV at my house.

People eat that shit up too, and we wonder why they get away with this shit.


Eireann go Brach's picture

Quite simply, if there is any justice on earth, before Obama leaves office, the house of cards that is the US will collapse on his watch!