Court OKs Warrantless Cellphone Searches
Phones not that different from diaries, judges decide
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2012 4:33 AM CST
A California prison officer holds one of thousands of cell phones confiscated from inmates.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(Newser) – The police don't need a warrant to search a suspect's cellphone for its phone number in order to obtain a history of calls, a federal appeals court. The three-judge panel, ruling on the case of an Indiana man convicted of drug charges on the basis of call records, likened cellphones to diaries, CBS reports. "It's not even clear that we need a rule of law specific to cellphones or other computers," they wrote. "If police are entitled to open a pocket diary to copy the owner's address, they should be entitled to turn on a cellphone to learn its number."

Searching a phone for its number in order to obtain its call history has only a "modest cost" in privacy invasion, they wrote. But as police would be barred from reading letters found between the pages of an address book, they would need a warrant to read texts found in the phone's memory, the judges decided. "Lurking behind this issue is the question of whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer—whether called a 'computer' or not—can be searched without a warrant," they noted.

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Showing 3 of 20 comments
Yourself
Mar 2, 2012 1:00 PM CST
i have nothing to hide, but this is yet another reason i don't miss having a cell phone. 7 months now without one, haven't missed it one bit!
Scaramouche
Mar 2, 2012 12:37 PM CST
"Lurking behind this issue is the question of whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer—whether called a 'computer' or not—can be searched without a warrant[.]" How about never, if I say no? We do have a Fourth Amendment for a reason. The information about which people I choose to communicate with falls under privacy.
truesoy
Mar 2, 2012 11:33 AM CST
Welcome to the reality of a republican world. Bush administration and the Patriot Act. And supported by a majority of americans back them because it was not applicable to us, but it was to the 'other' guy. And now we finding out that we were the 'other' guy. And don't you say we were not warned, because some people did warned us, but we chose to ignore it. And while conservatives were applauding/clamoring for the second amendment right, they were also cheering for the abolition of the 4th. Food for thought: be careful next time what you wish for. Sincerely, Truesoy