On Friday, the Supreme Court said that it would weigh in on whether it is legal for police officers to search the contents of a suspect’s cell phone when they are arrested. Specifically, the high court will take up two cases from California and Massachusetts, both arising from criminal prosecutions, that have brought to question the admissibility of evidence obtained through a search of the suspect’s phone after arrest.
The legal decision will come down to whether searching cell phones without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Earlier court precedent has allowed police officers to search all the items that a person has on them at the time of arrest. But as phones have grown to include e-mail, bank history, and location data, the potential problems with the old standards have become more apparent.
A Supreme Court ruling, at least, would give some clarity as to how such situations should be handled. Reuters notes that 91 percent of Americans now have cellphones, and over half of those can connect to the Internet.

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