Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Warrantless Cell Phone Searches?


Here’s a question to ponder on this Tuesday morning. If the police arrest you, should they have the right to confiscate and remove evidence from your cell phone without a warrant?

Before law enforcement officials can enter your home searching for evidence of a crime, they first must obtain a search warrant from a judge, in keeping with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that citizens should be “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” But should “papers and effects” now include cell phones?

The Obama administration will ask the Supreme Court today to consider allowing “warrantless cell phone searches”.  The case in question involved a man arrested by police in Massachusetts because they thought he was trying to sell crack cocaine. After the arrest, the police took his cell phone, and found information that led to the discovery of a house full of drugs and cash. The defendant appealed his convictions under the “fruit from the poisonous tree” doctrine that states that evidence seized illegally cannot be submitted in court.

So, what do you think?

If I were ever pulled over by the police because of suspicious behavior and they were to confiscate my cell phone, they would be quite disappointed. What they would find would be a multitude of dog pictures, a Words With Friends app, a bunch of stock market update things, an up to the minute baseball score gizmo, and a boat load of deleted credit score and Canadian pharmacy emails. But, on the other hand, my smart phone does everything that my work laptop does except screw up printing jobs. An enterprising cop could eventually find my payroll downloads, bank account balances, private communications with my wife etc.. Today’s cell phones are where we keep every vital thing to which we need unfettered access. It is in many ways the modern version of the filing cabinet in the attic, something that used to be protected by the Fourth Amendment.

I’m sure that the administration lawyers will yammer on about terrorism or how this is vital as a crime fighting tool. Then they will make the tired claim about how it is very rare that a cell phone is searched anyway, and the only people who should fear such a seizure are the guilty.

What is the deal with Presidents and their hatred of warrants anyway, first Bush and now Obama? Oh well, once again that pesky Bill of Rights is getting in the way of the State and its never ending battle to control us. Damn that James Madison!!

The trend line on these matters is running against “us”. More and more courts are buying in to the arguments of the “security state” so my trick knee tells me that the Supremes will rule in favor of big brother on this one. But, we probably have nothing to worry about since the vast majority of us are innocent, right? I mean, it’s not like the police would ever abuse this new power. In fact, just the other day my President assured me that all of this hand wringing about the NSA eavesdropping on private phone conversations was all hog wash. Just because the NSA has the capability to listen in to our calls doesn’t mean they would ever do it, he explained. I’m sure it will be the same with this cell phone thing. No worries.