Supreme Court takes up question of cell phone searches

On behalf of Philip Nathe

While all criminal charges certainly need to be taken seriously, before someone can be convicted of those charges, a case must work its way through the criminal justice system. When someone decides to defend themselves against the charges a trial will take place. During the trial the evidence offered by both sides is extremely important.

One type of evidence that’s use is currently controversial is the information found on a person’s cell phone. Courts are struggling with whether law enforcement needs a warrant to search for data on the device. This struggle has resulted in contradictory decisions. Accordingly, the Supreme Court is taking up the matter. It will hear oral arguments this week.

With the reliance most residents of the Chicago area place on this device, it is easy to imagine just how much information could be found on it. In addition to phone numbers, the smartphones most individuals have could contain photos, videos, contacts, text message and even online search results. Depending on what someone is charged with, the use of this information by the prosecution could be quite damaging to the defendant.

Those in favor of the warrant requirement argue that obtaining information without it constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure, violating the Fourth Amendment. Those opposed assert that going through a phone is essentially the same as a searching a wallet.

Whatever the outcome of the case, it is sure to have an impact on many not only in the state of Illinois, but throughout the nation as well as recent surveys indicated at least 85 percent of the country’s residents own a cell phone.

Source: CNN, “Supreme Court to look at privacy cases involving police searches of cell phones,” Bill Mears, April 27, 2014

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Supreme Court takes up question of cell phone searches