Supreme Court Looks for Middle Ground on Police Searches of Phones

By NBCNews.com

Published 05/01 2014 04:21PM

Updated 05/01 2014 04:23PM

The Supreme Court hunted for a middle ground Tuesday on how much authority police should have to rummage through the cellphones of people they arrest.

The justices seemed unwilling to say police can never search a phone without a warrant, but they seemed equally unlikely to adopt the Obama administration's claim that cellphones can be searched just like anything else carried by someone who's arrested.

Judging from Tuesday's argument, the court could allow police to search phones for evidence in serious crimes but not to rummage through them in minor ones.

Defense lawyers urged the court to rule that police should be required to get search warrants before conducting any kind of cellphone search, because smartphones can contain so much private information — medical records, political and religious affiliations, even intimate pictures.

"What's at issue is whether or not the police in every arrest, no matter how minor the offense, and no matter whether they have any reason to think they have to look right away, can do a full exploratory search of someone's digital device," said Jeffrey Fisher of Stanford University Law School.

Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/supreme-court-looks-middle-ground-police-searches-phones-n92896

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