A Win For Privacy Rights

The Supreme Court championed the privacy rights of individuals this week by ruling on Wednesday that law enforcement officers may not search the cell phones of people under arrest without a search warrant. Given that cell phones and smart phones may carry volumes of personal private data, judicial and legislative bodies across the countries have struggled to draw the line on where and how far law enforcement may tread.

The Supreme Court championed the privacy rights of individuals this week by ruling on Wednesday that law enforcement officers may not search the cell phones of people under arrest without a search warrant.  Given that cell phones and smart phones may carry volumes of personal private data, judicial and legislative bodies across the countries have struggled to draw the line on where and how far law enforcement may tread.

The exploration of this Fourth Amendment conundrum began in April when the Supreme Court agreed to hear cases from Massachusetts and California in which crucial evidence was taken from cell phones in warrantless searches by the police.  In both cases, one involving an alleged drug dealer and the other a suspected gang member, the Supreme Court examined the question of whether police could examine the contents of a cell phone in the same manner in which they could search the trunk of a driver’s car following an arrest.

The unanimous decision is a big victory for those who have long sought privacy in the digital age.  The justices noted in their opinion that, “Privacy comes at a cost,” referring to the impact the decision will have on law enforcement.  But the Court went on to note, “Our cases have historically recognized that the warrant requirement is an important component of the Fourth Amendment and that warrants may be obtained with increasing efficiency.”

The founding fathers’ idea of individual privacy was that it was as fundamental as food and water.  Now, in the age of increasingly sophisticated technology, the issue must continually be reevaluated so that the law keeps up with technology.  The Supreme Court has done that in its most recent ruling.  As a result, privacy rights – and the Fourth Amendment – have prevailed.