Does you have privacy rights in what's stored in your cellphone? Supreme Court cases raise the issue.

Do you have privacy rights in what’s stored in your cellphone? Supreme Court cases raise the issue.

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.’”

Read the whole story here.

And let me know where you stand on the privacy rights attendant on that phone in your pocket.

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Should your lawyer app be here?

Today’s post title has to be one of the most unappealing I’ve ever written. I admit that it is evocative—in a bad way—for more than one reason. But it involves not wallet-snatching or worse, but new technology that alters the lawyer–client relationship.

As you may have guessed, I’m talking about lawyer applications for cell phones. Apps, primarily for the iPhone or other smartphones, have transformed the daily existence of many people. They modify our experience in gaming, business, entertainment and more.

But can they—and should they—modify experiences with lawyers? If so, how?

That is something I’d like to explore in Arizona Attorney Magazine. So as we begin looking into this, contact me with your thoughts on: 

  • Whether you have or are developing an app for your law practice.
  • Whether you think apps have a place in the law.
  • Whether you fear ethical pitfalls in regard to apps (for instance, how do you provide the app to the world without making it appear that random downloaders have become a client?).
  • How do you develop a lawyer app that potential clients may download without providing confidential information, which may violate HIPAA or risk a conflict with an existing client?

Our story will focus on these and other issues, and will include stories of some lawyers who have had app success.

Don’t wait for the story to run to say, “Hey, I had an app! Why didn’t he call me?!”

Here’s why: I don’t know you. Contact me; let’s talk.  Write me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.