Get a warrant
The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
But technology has a funny way of blurring lines. At one point, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement authorities have the right to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.
The high court on Wednesday drew the line at cellphones, ruling that police may not rummage through the contents of a suspect’s cellphone without first obtaining a warrant based on evidence that a crime has been committed.
It’s somewhat surprising that it took this long for the court to rule on the issue. Cellphones are much more than just phones. They’re handheld computers with vast quantitites of personal, sensitive information. They’re windows into our personal lives.
Guardians of personal liberty hailed the decision as an important victory for privacy in the digital age.
We agree. Absent the high court’s ruling, Americans would increasingly have found themselves calculating whether the convenience of cellphones is worth the erosion of civil liberties.