A quick question for you on Monday morning: How private is your cellphone?
That simple question underlies some cases facing the U.S. Supreme Court this Term. There, the justices must wrestle with issues of search and seizure when it comes to the ubiquitous cellphone.
When you are asked to empty your pockets (following, we suppose, establishment of probable cause or at least a Terry stop), is your phone entitled to no more privacy than, say, the wad of tissues, or the spare change?
Here is how one news story about the cases opens:
“Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the ubiquitous device.”
“Is it a critical tool for a criminal or is it an American’s virtual home?”
“How the justices answer that question could determine the outcome of the cases being argued Tuesday. A drug dealer and a gang member want the court to rule that the searches of their cellphones after their arrest violated their right to privacy in the digital age.”
“The Obama administration and California, defending the searches, say cellphones are no different from anything else a person may be carrying when arrested. Police may search those items without a warrant under a line of high court cases reaching back 40 years.”
“What’s more, said Donald Verrilli Jr., the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, ‘Cellphones are now critical tools in the commission of crimes.’”
And let me know where you stand on the privacy rights attendant on that phone in your pocket.Follow @azatty