Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds Cell Phone Privacy

 Update: here's a link to ACLU Washington's page on youth issues.

This ruling may be a subject you might want to talk to your kids - especially teens - about at some point.

In a 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court today ruled that police must have a warrant to search the cellphones of people they arrest.  From the NY Times:

The old rules, Chief Justice Roberts said, cannot be applied to “modern cellphones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

The courts have long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to protect police officers and to prevent the destruction of evidence.

From Chief Justice Roberts ruling:
 “Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” he wrote. “Privacy comes at a cost.”

The Justice Department, in its Supreme Court briefs, said cellphones are not materially different from wallets, purses and address books. Chief Justice Roberts disagreed.

“That is like saying a ride on horseback is not materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” he wrote.

As I have in the past, I urge you to go and look at the ACLU's website.  They have sections for parents and students.  All teens should know their rights.

This ruling could very much come into play for teens who could be at a party that gets out of control and police come on the scene.  Teens should know that they do NOT have to answer any questions beyond basic ones that police ask.  Teens should know that their mantra should be, "I want to wait to talk until my parents or lawyer are present."  

But, if police see law-breaking happening, the ruling does allow for police to take phones to prevent destruction of evidence.  (How far that can get pushed under this ruling is to be seen.)  If an officer felt he/she need to confiscate a cell phone at a party because it may have evidence of a crime AND they believe the owner may try to delete that evidence, the police may still be able to take it.  

Any lawyers out there, please weigh in.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa! Could you please post a link to the info from the ACLU that relates to teens? I'd like to learn more and to talk with my teens proactively about their rights and how they should handle situations that could arise, but I'm not finding the relevant info.

Thanks! - Seattle parent