Cell Phones and Searches

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

(AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images)

For the police, is your cell phone like a wallet or a safety deposit box? Emily Bazelon, senior editor and court watcher at Slate, Political Gabfest regular and the author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, discusses the cases being argued at the Supreme Court over the issue of whether a search warrant is required for cell phones.


Emily Bazelon

Comments [14]

Mr. Bad from NYC

Most are missing the point, there really isn't a 4th Amendment anymore. The case law is so complex, riddled with exceptions and often contradictory that no ordinary person could possibly know what rights they have in any given encounter with the police as to search and seizure. If there is an obviously unlawful search/seizure incident to an arrest that will probably result in suppression of evidence(if the defendant can afford counsel)but nationally the courts have basically taken a "no holds barred" approach.

The bottom line is that the police can and will search/seize unlawfully with no consequences other than those that would be imposed by a civil lawsuit which is not something most people can afford to bring and not a case many attorneys will take on a contingency basis. The end result is the people have no right to feel secure in their homes and persons (no 4th amendment) and the police can basically do anything they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want but it tends to not be people living in gated mansions that have their homes unlawfully searched or their property unlawfully seized.

If a cop wants your cellphone he'll just take it, same as anything else. It's then your job to get it back, if that's even possible, and I wouldn't protest too much (or even at all) because that will get you arrested for resisting/interfering and boom you now have a police record! Enjoy your stay in Amerika.

Apr. 29 2014 03:24 PM
Amy from Manhattan

jeff pappas: or hold you in a cell till you give them your password.

Apr. 29 2014 11:37 AM
Ed from Larchmont

There is no 'right to abortion', it's just decriminalized.

Apr. 29 2014 11:22 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Clever. One way to do get around it.

Apr. 29 2014 11:20 AM
jeff pappas from Dumbo

My cell phone is my private journal , end of argument ! BTW its password protected so the cop on the street would have to take it to the cop geeks to crack it or break my fingers to have me give him the code

Apr. 29 2014 11:16 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian just said something about the police taking/searching a phone when they *stop* a person, but isn't that definitely ruled out by the 4th amendment? I thought they had to *arrest* someone to search them (by law, not necessarily in practice).

Apr. 29 2014 11:12 AM
Listener from Westchester

Good point, doctor! Doctors are held to a high standard that requires that they do not disclose protected patient info. They are also pushed to have electronic medical records. And to document ad nauseum. Should cops have unfettered access to this info if it's contained on a smartphone just because a doctor had a minor traffic violation?

Apr. 29 2014 11:09 AM
Jaime from Ellenville, NY

Can the police compel you to give your password on a stop for other reasons? 5th Amendment issues?

Apr. 29 2014 11:09 AM
David from Ditmas Park

...Another instance of the average citizen's right to privacy incrementally being eroded away.

ten years from now everyone will be wondering how it got so bad...

Apr. 29 2014 11:06 AM
Tom from UWS

What is the precedent for a person who is carrying a laptop when stopped by police?

Apr. 29 2014 11:06 AM

Great, a group of old people, half of whom probably don't own and don't know how to USE a smart phone, are going to decide this case which hinges on an understanding of modern technology.

Apr. 29 2014 11:06 AM
Tom from UWS

What is the precedent for a person who is carrying a laptop when stopped by police?

Apr. 29 2014 11:05 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

In the legal community it is simply a given that the 4th Amendment has been de facto repealed by judicial precedent. These cases only exist to give LE bright lines (and very expansive ones) for LE training purposes.

Apr. 29 2014 11:02 AM

If the cops are afraid of associates zapping the phone, turn the phone off. Take out the battery. Then get a normal court order to search it.

Apr. 29 2014 10:52 AM

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