Supreme Court Rules Cops Need Warrants To Search Cell Phone Data

Tyler Durden's picture

Moments ago, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court gave the NSA monopoly rights to electronic data, communication and exchange after it decided that Police must obtain a warrant before searching mobile devices after arresting someone, stating "privacy interest outweigh police convenience". So... Americans still have privacy rights despite all the Snowden revelations - amusing.  According to the WSJ, "the court, in a unanimous ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts, said both the quantity and quality of information contained in modern handheld hand-held is constitutionally protected."

Chief Justice Roberts rejected law-enforcement arguments that cellphones fell under a longstandlong-standingn to the warrant requirement that allows police to search the contents of suspects' pockets to make sure they don't carry weapons or destroy evidence.


"Modern cellphones are not jaren'tther technological convenience," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans 'the privacies of life,'" he wrote.


"Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant," the chief justice added.


Lower courts had been split on the question, and the justices themselves have been grappling with the bounds of privacy in the digital age, sometimes tilting toward government, other times toward the individual.

Of course, the Police can simply use back channels to get all the data they need from Fort Meade.

One wonders how much impact big corporations, pardon, "people" had in this decision, one which will only give Americans a greater sense of comfort about sharing all their private details with anyone and everyone, even as all the data is still intercepted and collected by "non-Police" entities.

Finally, and since the Supreme Court is on this wave of protecting "constitutional rights", maybe it is time for SCOTUS to opine on how it really feels about the NSA following the endless revelations about the agency's relentless intrusiveness in the private lives of Americans, both domestically and around the globe?

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SWCroaker's picture

Police.   POLICE.      Read the fine print.    NSA is spelled nothing like POLICE, so it's an entirely different story there.

HyperinflatmyNutts's picture

As my friend Eazy-E from N.W.A. would say " Fuck The Police "

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

So does this apply to StingRay?

Or are we still operating under the false pretense that doesn't exist and that the existence of the NSA is a conspiracy theory?

TBT or not TBT's picture

What a relief to dealers of dangerous drugs.   Man this will help pull more cartel product too.   I guess I better homeschool my kid until their prefrontal cortex is fully engaged.  It is going to be dangerous out there, with our borders open, police budgets strapped, prisons over flowed, court systems bogged and delided, teachers and administrators and curriculum writers spouting dumbed down statist pap, and this too.  

Bananamerican's picture

"Supreme Court Rules Cops Need Warrants To Search Cell Phone Data"


Sometimes a bone is just a bone....

El Vaquero's picture

Give the police an inch and they'll take a mile.  For your own, ahem, "safety," of course. 


Yeah, they'll just ignore the ruling when it comes to StingRay.  But with this ruling comes all sorts of fun we can have with our local sunshine laws. 

Syrin's picture

The ruling did not mention the NSA at all, and police and gov't agencies are becoming more and more intertwined daily.  DHS performs raids with local police all the time, so the police will just tap into the NSA.   Basically, nothing has changed

flacon's picture

Watch this!!!



overmedicatedundersexed's picture

well this means more favors for local judges and the pre printing of warrants with fill in the blanks as needed..

xtop23's picture

A buddy of mine was pulled over and asked for his cel phone about 9 months ago.

He got out of his car and smashed it on the ground then told the cop feel free to write him up for littering.

Personally, I'd have just said good luck figuring out my password.

But, I had to give Teddy props for having the balls.

rubiconsolutions's picture

This is crap. It will only incentivize police to create more "probable cause" stops to circumvent the need for a warrant. Or gin up situations so that police can proceed without a warrant. "He was reaching for something" "You are resisting, hands up" "My dog smelled something"...that kind of stuff. This won't change a thing, only the tactics used to negate the need for warrants. 

El Vaquero's picture

If you have a smartphone, encrypt it.  Yes, the NSA probably has ways of dealing with that, but no, your local PD doesn't, and the more encrypted phones there are, the more computing power the NSA would have to put towards cracking them, and there is a limit to computing power, not to mention a limit to manpower.  It does take a person to decide whether or not to crack the encryption the data and it does take a person to push the buttons.

CH1's picture

Police. POLICE.  Read the fine print.  NSA is spelled nothing like POLICE

Let me be clear:


Hippocratic Oaf's picture


A step in the right direction?

How can this be?

NotApplicable's picture

Why, because it's an election year, of course.

Facade maintenance is required lest the sheeple stay home on selection day.

Amish Hacker's picture

Don't kid yourself. A warrant in this context is a rubber stamp formality that delays your arrival in Stoney Lonesome by a few nanoseconds.

El Vaquero's picture

Depends on your local judges, really.  Some districts are nightmares, others still try to adhear to the constitution, and yet others, it's a crapshoot.

Amish Hacker's picture

I think you're talking about America's Walt Disney past. Nowadays,  FISA laws and the Patriot Act have done away with most of those quaint Bill of Rights notions.

El Vaquero's picture

No, there are differences between districts when it comes to the courts.  Some judges think that what is going on is bullshit, but there is only so much they can do to combat it.


A cop can be sued as an individual for merely detaining someone because they are open carrying:

A cop can be sued as an individual for arresting someone for concealing their identity when the cop has no reasonable suspicion to detain them:


The dates of those cases are 2009 and 2012 respectively.  The judge that issued those rulings is still the chief justice of my local USD court.  Another one that he was in the news for:


APD’s arrest of an unarmed, 60-year-old intoxicated man by firing numerous bean bags at him, siccing a dog on him and then repeatedly Tasering him was “clearly excessive” force, says a federal judge who took the unusual step of overturning the jury’s verdict in the case.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Bruce D. Black said it would be “a miscarriage of justice” to let the verdict in favor of the Albuquerque Police Department stand.

“No reasonable person could believe that an inhibited, slow-moving 60-year old individual who made no physical or verbal threats and wielded no weapons could constitute a threat to the safety of any of the 47 armed and shielded police officers who stood 20 feet away,” Black wrote, reversing the outcome of the weeklong jury trial last October in Santa Fe.

“Nothing presented at trial showed that the officers’ extraordinary use of force was reasonably necessary to safely arrest (the plaintiff),” said the opinion Black wrote this month.


sleigher's picture

I think a lot of people miss the point and sue the police department or the city.  Sue the individual and you will get somewhere.

El Vaquero's picture

Due to the legal concept of qualified immunity, suing the individual is not always possible.  Different districts have different ideas on when qualified immunity goes away.  I could probably go trolling by walking up and down Central Ave. open carrying, and being honest about my intent to get some dumb cop to detain/arrest me for open carrying to the dumb cop himself so that I could sue him and make ~15k.  I would eventually get one dumb enough to bite.  Other places, not so much. The stupidity of the cop would be irrelevant. 

StychoKiller's picture

Do some research on the U.C.C. (Uniform Commercial Code).  There are ways of filing leins on someone's personal property for interfering with you unecessarily.

BigRedRider's picture

This is so very true, my good man.  But there's just so much more money to be made by suing the police department and city.

NoDebt's picture

Don't worry.  Obama will sign some international treaty that will allow the police to keep right on doing it, overruling (and rendering completely irrelevant) this Supreme Court decision.  Same way he's going to nullify the 2nd Amendment (and others).

Dr. Engali's picture

He'll do it for the children.

TBT or not TBT's picture

That's Michelle's shtick for her centrally planned school nutrition SS program.   And of course Nancy Lugosi's shtick for everything in the state, nothing outside the state(except for tuna fishing.  She rakes in lots of cash with that, for her children and private school grandchildren, exclusively).   

TruthHunter's picture

"Obama will sign some international treaty"

Maybe not necessary...

Officer: "Those are Brazilian floor tiles your standing on. You are officially outside the

USA. You no longer have any rights."

Stoploss's picture

That means no more taking away of the cell phones for no reason.

So, when you film them breaking the laws they don't enforce anyway, they need a warrant first.

Will the cops follow the directions???

Why, fuck no...

Tall Tom's picture

Will the cops follow the directions???


Why should they as they are not held personally accountable for violations of Civil Rights?


If you are lucky enough to have a Court hear your case then the Taxpayer is saddled with the expense of the Judgement and the Court Costs.


Why sue?


Off topic...Public Buildings can easily be destroyed by taking a Pipe Bomb and placing it between the Gas Meter and the structure. The following fire will destroy the building and kill or burn the occupants of the building. Pipe Bombs are easy to construct with Lithium Batteries. Here is an "non instructional" video on YouTube.


You can imagine that other variations can be made.


The best way for you to protect yourself from any danger is to limit your travel and occupancy of any Public Building as Courthouses, Police Stations, Federal Buildings, IRS Offices, etc.


If the Police continue their illegal activities then, sooner or later, some people may actually act.


This is posted as a Public Service Announcement as you cannot be too safe.

El Vaquero's picture

I'm lucky enough to have a court near me that actually says that cops don't have qualified immunity on a fairly regular basis. 

MachoMan's picture

As are many other places...  of course, you don't hear much about the places that are functioning well...

El Vaquero's picture

Yeah, well, I am seeing enought chatter about areas where they aren't functioning well to worry he hell out of me.  I consider myself lucky, and on the criminal side of things, the police and the district attorney's office are most certainly not functioning well.  I'm happy that one out of the three institutions still tries to do its job, and at the metro level rather than the real trial court level (i.e. district court in NM,) it is a crapshoot.  Some of the metro judges are excellent, some suck balls.  But I want you to think about that for a moment - I'm happy that one out of the three institutions are functioning properly. 

XitSam's picture

For the statists it is 19 steps forward, today was one step back.

mikebowen55's picture

...and tomorrow it will be a full twenty steps forward.

Stanley Kubrick's picture

Moar bread & cricus for da masses.....brought to you by CNN Headline News.

Now, back to our regular programming (NSA eavesdropping).


Troy Ounce's picture

British Intelligence needs shit to search US cell phones.


Dr. Engali's picture

NSA ShmeNSA. The proles will see this ruling as a victory for truth, justice, and the American way (ahem....spying and lying). Cue the slow motion flag waving and signs of victory on the steps of the SCOTUS.

disabledvet's picture

It's really hard to fathom what a relief this is to call this a relief.

It's like saying "sure, you still have death sentence...but we might have made some procederal errors when we ordered your summary execution and we'll willing to look into that now."

Gives new meaning to the game "smear the queer" we all used to play back in elementary school meh?!

"Apparently some of those kids that got targeted are still pissed off. And they invented the internet!"

In other news I have in fact heard from reputable sources that mail volume has totally collapsed again. I think the days of the postal delivery dude are numbered.

JustObserving's picture

The NSA spies on everyone.  The Supreme Court dare not make a decision that limits the power of the NSA:

The most extraordinary passage in the memo requires that the Israeli spooks “destroy upon recognition” any communication provided by the NSA “that is either to or from an official of the US government.” It goes on to spell out that this includes “officials of the Executive Branch (including the White House, Cabinet Departments, and independent agencies); the US House of Representatives and Senate (members and staff); and the US Federal Court System (including, but not limited to, the Supreme Court).”

The stunning implication of this passage is that NSA spying targets not only ordinary American citizens, but also Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and the White House itself. One could hardly ask for a more naked exposure of a police state.

disabledvet's picture

They could discover a "A Right...To Fight... To Party!" tho.

If it's chaos the regime wants...give them chaos. "Free form violence" does have repurcussions.

When Hitler and his "SS" went after the leadership of the SA and Hans Roen he personally stood watch as they were executed. When they saw Hitler they were all saying "Heil Hitler" before they were gunned down.

That had to sound rather incongruous to "The Fuhrer" no?

Certainly to the men doing the shooting.

"Once the war in the East turned"...

StychoKiller's picture

Hans Roen?  Perhaps you're referring to Ernst Rohm.

pods's picture

Well I would like to be excited, but that sort of is their job.

And cops will still go through your phone, they just cannot use that as primary evidence.  They will merely work backwards like they do with NSA data.

It is a decent feeling that it was unanimous though.


rum_runner's picture

Good luck unlocking my Blackberry without my code.

Crawdaddy's picture

connect usb interface, download data, decrypt, read and enjoy

Great Caesar's picture

Same. Really thought it was great until I read this article. . .  Oh right, NSA, I forgot about them.

LawsofPhysics's picture

You would think that an attorney who studied constitutional law would already know this.