The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Generally speaking the agents of the government need a warrant before they can search. There are certain exceptions which allow the government to search without a warrant. The “search incident to arrest” exception allows the agents of the government to search unlocked items in close proximity to the suspect for weapons and evidence.
There are a couple of cases (Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie) that have been accepted for review by United States Supreme Court involving mobile phones that were searched “incident to arrest.” In other words, the reading-an-e-mail-with-glasses-10014634police in these cases had arrested the suspects for crimes and just started looking through their phones without a warrant. One of the phones was an old fashioned phone without the massive amounts of data that can be carried by a modern “smart phone.” The other was a “smart phone” which can carry the same amount of data as some personal computers did just as recently as 2004.
In my opinion, the government should be compelled to seek a warrant to go through someone’s mobile phone. Modern mobile phones carried by our citizens are the equivalent of mobile filing cabinets. They contain vast amounts of information including intimate messages, emails, photographs, banking records and whereabouts on a given date. This is far too much information to be given to a constable without a warrant.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear argument on these cases in April of this year. Hopefully, they will protect us all from further government intrusion.