Warrants Required for Searching Cellular and Smartphones

Posted on in Criminal Law

smartphones, mobile devices, Arlington Heights Criminal Defense AttorneyMobile devices and smartphones are so common that it feels like they have always been a part of our lives. It may be hard to believe, but most people in North America have only been using some type of mobile, cellular device for roughly the last twenty years. Regardless of whether your device is a base model cellular phone or the latest smartphone, there is an abundance of information about you, your contacts and your activities stored within the device.

A recent criminal case in California regarding the warrantless seizure of a cellphone was appealed and heard eventually by the  U.S. Supreme Court. This lead to the Court affirming its position on the unique distinction smartphones and cellular phones deserve as devices with significant data and personal information storage records. As such, law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant before searching a suspect’s mobile device.

Chief Justice Roberts Links Decision to the American Revolution

Writing for the court, Chief Justice Roberts highlighted the fact that a revulsion against "general warrants" in the American Colonies was a key tenet of the American Revolution. Serving a general warrant was a colonial era tactic that, "allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity."

The High Court chose to uphold the historical protections provided in the United States for personal information, regardless of era. The Chief Justice wrote, "The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand, does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought."

Law Enforcement May Use Technology to Secure Warrants Faster

Law enforcement has access to technology that can aid them in obtaining warrants more rapidly than ever before. By utilizing common resources such as email and tablet computers, law enforcement may, in some instances, be able to obtain a search warrant in less than an hour.

No Warrant, No Search of Mobile Device

If you are detained by law enforcement, they are restricted from reviewing the contents of your mobile device or smartphone unless they have obtained a warrant. For more information about illegal searches, contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Scott F. Anderson. Attorney Scott Anderson has over 23 years of experience working in the Illinois criminal justice system. He has handled criminal cases both in the trial courts and on appeal.  He has represented clients for misdemeanor and felony crimes throughout Cook, Lake, DuPage and McHenry Counties. Please call 847-253-3400 to schedule a free initial consultation today.