The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously that the authorities generally may not search the mobile phones of those they arrest unless they have a court warrant.
“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,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote (PDF). It’s perhaps the biggest digital-age privacy decision that the high court has rendered following its 2012 ruling that the authorities usually need warrants to affix GPS trackers to a suspect’s vehicle.
The Obama administration and prosecutors from states across the country had lobbied the high court in briefs to allow police officers to be able to search arrestees’ gadgets—not just mobile phones—without a warrant. The justices declined to do so, saying that “privacy comes at a cost.”
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