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If you're in New Jersey, it has a just become a lot tougher for cops to get their hands on your cellphone location information.
In a landmark decision (.PDF) that seems to follow a rising tide towards more digital privacy protections, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that local law-enforcement needs a warrant to get their hands on a suspect's cellphone location data.
The ruling only applies in the state of New Jersey, and the judges, who voted unanimously, used the higher privacy protections granted by New Jersey Constitution to justify their decision. Privacy and digital rights advocates hailed the ruling as the latest in a string of judicial and legislative victories. In late June, Montana passed a law that requires cops to get a warrant for both real-time as well as historical location data. The case dates back to 2006, when suspect Thomas Earls was accused of a series of residential burglaries in Middletown, NJ.
Privacy advocates hope that the decision in New Jersey, as well as the laws in Maine and Montana, will have a ripple effect on the national stage.
In a rare 9-0 decision last week, the Supreme Court of the United States held that police may not search cell phone data as a search incident to arrest.
The Court combined two companion cases for the purpose of deciding the issue of whether searching through cell phone data was a valid search incident to arrest.
In California v Wurie, the defendant was arrested after police observed a drug transaction in a car.
The Fourth Amendment grants a right to privacy in our homes, papers, and effects by restricting the government from performing unreasonable searches and seizures.
The search incident to arrest is limited to the area immediately within the arrestee’s control. The Supreme Court correctly recognized that cell phones are unique and vastly different than most physical objects that may be recovered on an arrestee’s person. The justices noted that digital data cannot be used as a weapon against the police or to help the arrestee escape.
The government argued that searching a phone could protect the officer’s safety by looking for warnings that the arrestee’s confederates were coming to the scene. If you are facing criminal charges and believe your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated or you are the victim of an unreasonable search and seizure, call Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan Fourth Amendment lawyer for a free consultation! Defending criminal charges, Fourth Amendment, and other Constitutional rights throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Livingston, Jackson, Clinton, Kent, Calhoun, Kalamazoo in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Charlotte, St. Neither this web site or any information contained within it constitutes legal advice or legal consultation. By a 9-0 vote, the justices said smart phones and other electronic devices were not in the same category as wallets, briefcases, and vehicles — all currently subject to limited initial examination by law enforcement. Criminal suspects in Massachusetts and California were separately convicted, in part, after phone numbers, text messages, photos and addresses obtained from personal electronic devices linked them to drug and gang activity.
Those cases were appealed to the high court, giving it an opportunity to re-enter the public debate over the limits of privacy rights, with a focus on the ubiquitous cellphone and its vast storage of information and video. The appeals were not related to the recent mass surveillance of phone metadata by the National Security Agency, which has raised similar constitutional concerns. A January Pew Research Center survey found more than 90 percent of Americans now own or regularly use a cellphone, and 58 percent have a more sophisticated smartphone. Lower courts nationwide are divided over how to apply a 40-year-old high court precedent allowing searches of a suspect’s items after arrest. Of the two cases addressed by the Supreme Court, David Riley’s attracted the most scrutiny. He was detained in 2009 for having an expired vehicle registration and driving with a suspended license. After the college student’s subsequent arrest, San Diego police took a look at his smartphone.
Unclear from the high court’s ruling is whether other defendants convicted on such electronic evidence will also have their cases dismissed. But the court minced no words in separating such devices from other things a person might have on them when detained by police.
That included a 1973 ruling upholding the police search of a suspect’s crumpled cigarette box, where heroin capsules were discovered. Similar law enforcement searches can include other closed containers, such as wallets and address books, even if it is not initially apparent the items are contraband or dangerous. But privacy advocates and defense attorneys had argued that portable, easily storable technology makes these appeals different. Wow, the Supreme Court made the correct decision for a change – and it was unanimous, to boot! Maybe someday they can re-address this issue, and properly include cars with electronic devices as something that cannot be searched without a warrant, as it should be. Meanwhile, the blatant violation of our rights while in our vehicles will continue unchecked. The founding fathers weren't exactly experts on issues like cloud storage, so Supreme Court justices often struggle with applying old, established rules to emerging technology. On Tuesday, the high court will hear two cases that ask a variation of this question: Does a police officer need a warrant when searching a cell phone during a lawful arrest? However, privacy advocates say there are ways of protecting the information on a cell phone, including securing the phone in a signal-blocking bag until a warrant is obtained.
As the justices weigh privacy and technology, they will also have to consider the fact that there are approximately 12 million arrests a year, according to the FBI, and that 90 percent of Americans now carry a cell phone.
Supreme Court debates whether police can search cell phones The cases deliberated by the justices Tuesday could dictate digital privacy for what the Pew Research Center says is the more than 90 percent of American adults that own mobile phones. A warrant could be required for police to search mobile phones found on an arrested person, depending on two cases that a wary U.S. The cases could dictate digital privacy for what the Pew Research Center says is the more than 90 percent of American adults that own mobile phones, when the cases are resolved in July. The cases, one which involves a smartphone and the other an older a€?flipa€™ phone, had the justices discussing what would be the acceptable extent that police could use when investigating personal mobile devices.
Previous rulings by the Supreme Court have allowed police to empty a suspect's pockets and examine anything they find to ensure the officersa€™ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.
Rileya€™s lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher, asked the court to impose what he called a a€?categorical rule,a€? which would generally require a warrant for accessing the devices. California Solicitor General Edward DuMont defended the conviction, referencing cases that say officers may seize and inspect any item found on someone arrested. Also discussed was whether the severity of onea€™s arrest should be used to consider whether a smartphone search would be necessary. Kennedy asked if the court could distinguish between serious and non-serious offenses to determine whether police have more power in terms of what they can search. Unlike the smartphone case, the justices hinted that Wuriea€™s case is simpler given the limited information police obtained from the phone, that the phone company would also have had his call log and that officers would not have had much trouble determining where he lived.
The Supreme Court has spoken: Police must get a warrant before they can search the contents of your cell phone. Next Stop, NSA?The decision is a sweeping endorsement of personal privacy, and confirms Americans have a constitutional right to privacy in the personal information stored on their mobile devices.
Now that the Supreme Court has affirmed our right to privacy on our phones, perhaps the next step would be the Court weighing in on whether the National Security Agency's phone and computer surveillance methods should also require a warrant.

While it's great the Supreme Court thinks the majority of American users lock their phones, we know that's not the case. Generally, law enforcement officials are allowed to search a person's wallet or purse, even check the pockets, without a warrant.
The justices rejected that claim, noting that "digital data on the phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate an arrestee's escape." Police can still inspect the phone itself, so long as they don't try to view the contents.
Later this month, the court will doff their robes and don their scuba gear to dive to the bottomless depths of the Fourth Amendment and determine whether police can search your mobile phone without a warrant, upon arresting you. The cases pose a question that would have never occurred to the Framers or to nearly all previous members of the Supreme Court, whose idea of evidence was analog.
While my phone is mostly filled with music and audio books, I don’t look forward to the day that, say, a drunk and disorderly arrest exposes all of its contents to a prosecutor because a police officer is looking for additional criminal evidence.
The usual gang of civil libertarians has filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court, decrying the warrantless searches as violations of our Fourth Amendment rights. The brief doesn’t argue for the court to carve out special rights for professional journalists. Without sounding too much like a Wired magazine essay from the 1990s, it’s hard to imagine a First Amendment tool more powerful, portable, affordable and essential than a smartphone.
Coverage of breaking news frequently involves contact with police, and journalists have been threatened, arrested, and sometimes charged for doing nothing more than engaging in newsgathering activities.
It’s impossible to imagine a modern journalist doing his work for long without a smartphone in his pocket or purse. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were more attuned to the link between privacy and freedom of speech than any modern civil libertarian, as the brief notes. Donning his cave diving duds today and going deep is law professor Orin Kerr, with his views on the Fourth Amendment and the cell phone case.
PHOTOS: People use their smartphones in New York City, in this picture taken November 6, 2013. We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data.
Today Edward Snowden asked Putin if he does or would condone mass spying on all of its citizens — and monitoring and collecting the call they make from their cell phones.
So, why do we ignore the massive violation of the 4th amendment and then make a big deal about it on the small, unusual, private level? In a quirk of law, your fingerprint is not considered to be private and does not need a warrant to be obtained and used.
A realist might well say, this is an easy case for the Supreme Court – just rule for law enforcement on the theory, the government is always right, and if you really wanted privacy, you would encrypt everything and use a code to lock your cell phone.
I am sure the supreme court will rule for the police state…after all, those with the power over us want things to remain that way.
Reuters Analysis & Opinion Vladimir Putin creates a new Praetorian Guard By Jason Fields Prince, Bowie and Haggard: Icons? This is the first time a state Supreme Court has recognized a Fourth Amendment protection of cellphone location data. But they also made a case that this was a necessary decision, given the times and the advancement of technology. Butler believes that this case will act as a precedent for other states to rule similarly in other cellphone tracking cases. The local police were able to obtain his location data from T-Mobile without a warrant, nor any type of court order. Powered by its own proprietary technology, Mashable is the go-to source for tech, digital culture and entertainment content for its dedicated and influential audience around the globe. Instead, the Court held that police must generally obtain a warrant if they want to search an arrestee’s phone.
At the police station, police noticed an incoming call on Wurie’s phone from “my house.” They accessed his call log and traced the number to Wurie’s residence. Such a warrantless search is justified by balancing the interests in the officer’s safety versus the legitimate governmental interests. The police can certainly examine the physical aspect of the phone to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon, but not the digital information.
SCOTUS held that this type of argument is best left to a case-by-case basis under an exigent circumstances analysis.
The government proposed that the Court could limit the holding so that police officers could only search phone data for relevant information pertaining to the crime the defendant was arrested for.
Home searches generally require warrants and are given greater constitutional protection than vehicles or a person in public. Text messages, contacts and video in the touch-screen device led officers to believe Riley had organized crime connections.
He had an old-style flip phone in his pocket, and police in Boston used call logs on the device to trace his real home address, after the suspect gave a bogus one. The motorist had first been stopped on suspicion of driving on a suspended license in Washington. Courts upholding the warrantless searches have relied, at times, on a 1973 Supreme Court precedent that privacy advocates say doesn't contemplate modern technology. He insisted that a "digital footprint" can be enormously helpful at an arrest and waiting for a warrant can be dangerous. Fisher of Stanford Law School, will tell the justices on Tuesday that the stakes in the debate are high.
The case involves Brima Wurie, a Boston man linked to a 2007 drug sale in the parking lot of the Lil Peach convenience store. The Obama administration and the state of California are defending these searches, stating that mobile devices should be considered the same as finding any other item of evidence. California, comes from the 2009 San Diego arrest of David Leon Riley for carrying concealed and loaded weapons under his cara€™s hood. Fisher said that any ruling, even a limited one, could have big implications for the public. Several justices, including Justice Samuel Alito, questioned Fishera€™s desire to require a warrant, equating it to finding physical objects. Justice Antonin Scalia questioned if police should have access to the phone of a person stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. Solicitor General Michael Dreeben also told the justices that it is possible for accomplices to remotely wipe or encrypt data from a smartphone taken for investigation, which would make it impossible for police to obtain evidence. Wurie, involves the Obama administration seeking to reinstate the conviction of Brima Wurie, who was arrested in 2007 in Boston for allegedly selling drugs. Rather than being "just another technological convenience," cell phones are also our cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, and newspapers, he wrote. Even though the police are no longer allowed to trawl through your phone, locked or unlocked, we should all go ahead and get better about password protecting our mobile devices.
This was to ensure the person wasn't carrying any weapons that might endanger officials or allow the person to escape custody. Since there are legal ways to prevent phones from being remotely wiped, or to still extract data afterwards, the police have time to convince a judge to issue a warrant. Examples include the person trying to text an accomplice to detonate a bomb, or a suspected kidnapper with information about the victim on the phone.

Consider, for example, the size of the personal library of Thomas Jefferson, the most ardent bibliophile of the period in which the Bill of Rights were written. My smartphone has become my life’s locker, my attic and basement storage, a portal to my effects, the virtual home that the Framers sought to protect. The advent of such new technologies as mobile phones bestowed upon everybody a greater power to make news, it acknowledges, and it mounts a defense of the acts of making journalism as opposed to a defense of the credentialed.
The same has happened to private individuals who use cell phones to record and document newsworthy events, as advanced technology has made citizen reporting more ubiquitous. Even though a smartphone user may never shoot a video or write a story on his device, he has a right under the Constitution to speak and read anonymously, a right that is violated by warrantless searches. The two sometimes corresponded in code so that their thoughts could not be intercepted by foes.
President Barack Obama as he delivers remarks at a campaign event at Springfield High School in Ohio, November 2, 2012. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. If you lock your phone using a fingerprint, the police can search your phone by applying your fingerprint to it. The author gave a lot of reasons why it would be a good thing if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendants and privacy. Hence, the user has no expectation of privacy regarding that data, which allows authorities to get it without probable cause and, consequently, without a judge-issued order. T-Mobile collaborated with the Middletown Township Police Department, providing it with Earl's whereabouts at three different times on Jan. That is a big victory for the Fourth Amendment as Constitutional and privacy advocates rejoiced.
However, there are numerous exceptions to the search warrant requirement that have been enumerated by the Supreme Court over the years. The governmental interest being the aforementioned safety of the officer and to prevent the destruction of evidence. The government further argued that cell phones are susceptible to remote wiping and data encryption, so searching through them will preserve any evidence that may be lost or destroyed.
A photograph of another vehicle owned by the suspect was linked to an earlier drive-by shooting.
When cops found concealed and loaded weapons in the car, they arrested Riley and seized his cell phone. After arrest, police noticed that Wurie's phone kept receiving an external call from a number identified as "my house" on the caller ID screen.
Police took his Samsung Instinct M800 smartphone, found photos and videos suggesting that Riley was a member of a gang, and another of him and another person in front of a car police suspected was involved in a shooting. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if police should be allowed to put a smartphone under investigation into a€?airplane modea€? in order to prevent that from happening. At the police station, officers saw that Wuriea€™s phone repeatedly received calls from a number identified as a€?my house.a€? An officer opening the phone checked the call log, used the number to get Wuriea€™s address and found drugs and a firearm in his apartment. As technology rapidly evolves, the law must also evolve to ensure that our most basic rights are protected as they have been in the past," O'Connor added. The government argued that searching the contents of a phone was a natural extension of that rule. In 1815, the Library of Congress purchased his library of 6,487 volumes after the British torched its collection. Scripps, and Advance Publications — senses the First Amendment implications of warrantless phone searching, correctly noting that the smartphone is one of the journalist’s most indispensable tools. Without strong Fourth Amendment protections, the brief maintains, the First Amendment cannot survive for long.
Its camera can produce newsreels or documentary images, and thanks to its telephonic powers it can stream live news video to the Web or TV. If they were writing today, I have no doubts they’d be encrypting their emails and denouncing warrantless searches of cell phones. Sign up for email notifications of new Shafer columns (and other occasional announcements).
The justices stated that not only was this broad concern not proven to be prevalent, but that having the police search through the phone would be an adequate solution. Instead, the Supreme Court stood firm on the principles of the Fourth Amendment and held that we the people have a right to privacy in our cell phone data.
Many devices contain videos, photographs, GPS information, cloud storage, financial documents and even a link to a webcam in a private home. One thing led to another and a warrantless search of the phone revealed photos and videos linking Riley to a recent gang shooting. The evidence eventually led to convicting Riley on shooting-related charges, including attempted murder.
A jury convicted Wurie on drug and weapons charges, and he was sentenced to more than 21 years inprisonment. In the California case, during a routine traffic stop, the policeman saw guns in Riley's car and searched his phone. It’s a digital archive, a data journalism cruncher, and an audio recorder of interviews. And the Supreme Court, once they’ve changed back into their priestly garments, should install encryption software on all of their devices, and do the same. Based upon information they found and after further analysis of the cell phone’s content, Riley was charged with a shooting and faced an enhanced sentence based on gang membership. The First Circuit reversed the denial, suppressed the evidence, and vacated the conviction. When placed under arrest, the police may search your clothes and artifacts in order to protect the police from anything harmful the arrestee may have and to prevent the destruction of evidence. Through a reverse directory they were able to obtain an associated address that eventually led them to get a warrant and find a stash of crack cocaine. A federal appeals court, however, overturned the conviction saying that police violated Wuriea€™s constitutional rights.
It’s the go-anywhere, do-anything tool, used by professionals and non-professionals alike. Since the computing industry is increasingly moving to a cloud based format I think the bigger question is can they search the contents of the documents that are stored on the cloud? The trial court denied Riley’s motion to suppress and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Also, the police will often keep an inventory of everything recovered in order to protect the department from civil suits from defendants who may claim the police lost, stole, or damaged their property.
If they believe the phone contains relevant information of a crime, they will need to cite probable cause to a judge or magistrate and get a warrant. The companion case, from Massachusetts, concerned a suspected drug dealer whose flip phone was searched after his arrest.

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