Monday, The California Supreme Court decided to allow police to search arrestees’ cell phones without a warrant. The ruling of the 7 Justices was a 5 to 2 vote in favor of this. The majority said that defendants lose their privacy rights for any items on them when taken into custody. (Source SF Chronicle)
The dissenting opinion was voiced by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. She says this allows police “to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person”.
Under current guidelines from the US Supreme Court, police are allowed to go through your wallet and other items. Should this right be extended to the data we carry on us? What happens when you are carrying not only a phone, but a laptop or tablet? Can they dig into these now without a warrant?
The American Civil Liberties Union hasn’t issued a statement concerning this decision yet. However, they have previously defended the rights of students in schools not to have their phone data seized by school officials. If they don’t defend the rights of an arrestee in this case, can they be taken seriously?
The Ohio Supreme Court reached the opposite opinion in 2009, which forced police to get a warrant to search cell phones or other portable devices.
What do I think about this?
I now have one more reason to be proud that I live in Ohio, a state that defends my rights to carry personal data. I feel sad for the people of California. If taken to extremes, anyone there can now have all of their personal data seized, simply by being given a speeding ticket or jay-walking.
People of California read this post at eHow.com: How to Encrypt a cell phone.