- Apr 7, 2013
In a major test of how the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure will be interpreted in the Internet age, the Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in two cases addressing whether police need a warrant to examine the cellphones of people they arrest. Lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that warrantless searches are justified by the need to prevent the destruction of evidence, such as incriminating emails and photos, and that checking a suspect’s phone is no different from examining their wallet or address book for evidence.
Justice Antonin Scalia appeared sympathetic to that argument, at least in certain cases. But other justices said the sheer amount of data that can be stored on smartphones might require a different approach to the Fourth Amendment. “We’re living in a new world,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Someone arrested for a minor crime has their whole life exposed on this little device.”