May 6, 2014
Everyday, American citizens seemingly give up more of their rights. Now, the Obama administration is trying to take one more thing away from us, quietly and behind closed doors. They are asking the Supreme Court to allow the search of cell phones held by anyone arrested for virtually any crime. While the Supreme Court has already ruled that anything on a suspect’s person can be searched to ensure officer’s safety, many feel that searching cell phones is taking things one step too far.
We live in the technology age, everyone from elementary school children to the elderly have a cell phone these days. People use their cell phones for address books, notepads, photo albums, music players, and much, much more. Giving officers the freedom to search phones at any interaction is a scary thought, and most definitely another chip off the block of “freedom” that we are sold as a fundamental part of this country. With 12 million people arrested in 2012, the idea of every single of those people having their phone searched upon arrest is unimaginable.
The United States prides itself on freedom, liberty and doing what makes you happy; as rights are being taken left and right, more people are left wondering what has happened to this place. Fortunately, the Supreme Court justices seem to be on the side of the people; for now. Justice Antonin Scalia said, “it seems absurd that they should be able to search that person’s iPhone,” upon arrest for driving without a seatbelt. Other justices have agreed with Scalia, stating that cell phones should be treated as an extension of a person’s home, where they should have the highest expectation of privacy.
The two cases that the court is looking at, Riley v. California, 13-132, and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212, both deal with defendants who are facing charges because of information on their cell phones. Riley’s phone contained pictures which led to attempted murder and other charges being filed against him. Wurie’s basic flip phone gave police his home address, which allowed them to issue a warrant and find evidence of illegal drug sales. Regardless of the crimes committed, the fact remains that their personal property was searched without a warrant, laughing in the face of the Fourth Amendment and all it stands for. Both cases are expected to reach a conclusion by June. While neither is gaining very much media coverage or news time, they are going to be landmark cases. The country as a whole is walking a delicate line while waiting for the answers the Supreme Court must give.
No matter the outcome, Americans who are interested in protecting their civil liberties would be better off learning how to encrypt their phones in some way. Now that the issue has come out, we can expect many more fights of the same nature to pop up in the near future. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to know that if I am stopped for a traffic violation that the contents of my phone won’t be used against me.