The article, titled “The Supreme Court Saves Cellphone Privacy”, reports on an important ruling by the Supreme Court regarding the contested issue of if it is permissible for police officers to search for information from cellphones without a warrant during an arrest except in exceptional circumstances. The issue came into the limelight after police officers were faulted for searching the cellphones of two suspects without first securing a warrant. While these searches helped police to find evidence of drug crimes and gang activity, the nine justices of the Supreme Court upheld the protection of cellphones from searches by the police without a warrant (“The Supreme Court” para. 1-4).
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From the article, it is clear that the government advanced an argument that police officers need to be given the power to search cellphones because of the long-established exception to the Fourth Amendment, which makes it permissible for the police to search an individual’s body and immediate surroundings without a warrant, with the view to ensuring their protection as well as preventing the destruction of evidence (“The Supreme Court” para. 5).
A second argument advanced by the government was that, criminals could remotely delete incriminating information contained in the cellphone or even “alert an officer to approaching accomplices who might threaten his safety” (“The Supreme Court” para. 8). However, in their ruling, the justices maintained that cellphones hold vast amounts of personal information and hence the expectation of privacy prevails over the immediate concerns of law enforcement. The justices also ruled that police officer can easily get search warrants upon request, thus there was no immediate need to conduct cellphone searches without warrants.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling to a large extent reaffirms the essence and scope of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures (“The Supreme Court” para. 12), it nevertheless raises pertinent security concerns that need to be addressed. In my submission, the justices should have considered the weighty issues raised by the government on why police offices should be allowed to conduct impromptu searches on cellphones confiscated from criminals.
The argument that the expectation of privacy far outweighs the immediate concerns of law enforcement, in my view, is not in the best interests of the American people, particularly in an age where criminals and terrorists communicate via mobile phones to cause havoc to the unsuspecting population (Shelley 303-304).
In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s justices may indeed have had reasonable justifications in choosing to protect the privacy of Americans over their security concerns. However such justifications should have been grounded on a framework that underscores privacy while at the same time ensuring that criminals do not take advantage of provisions of the Fourth Amendment to advance their agenda.
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Shelley, Louise I. “Organized Crime, Terrorism and Cybercrime.” Security Sector Reform: Institutions, Society, and Good Governance. Ed. Alan Bryden and Phillip Fluri. Indiana: Nomos Publishing. 303-12. Print.
“The Supreme Court Saves Cellphone Privacy.” The New York Times. 2014. Web.