back to article Cops need warrant to search phones, say Ohio Supremes

Police officers must obtain a search warrant before snooping through the contents of a suspect's cell phone, Ohio's supreme court ruled on Tuesday. The issue of whether mobile phones fall under US Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures appears never to have been weighed by any other US state supreme …


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  1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Behind the times

    "Although cell phones cannot be equated with laptop computers..."

    Er, I find it ironic that this statement appears in a judgement that accuses others of being behind the times. Still, at least the legal system isn't as far behind as it was.

    I would certainly consider both phones and laptops to be the same kind of device and to judge from their behaviour, Microsoft, Apple, Google and others also regard both as comparable platforms for their software products. They differ in physical size, but are functionally indistinguishable. Both have operating systems, both can make phone calls, both can talk to a variety of other devices and both run applications that you've downloaded from the internet.

  2. JaitcH

    Frustrate the cops ...

    use multiple pagers!

    They don't let on where you are.

  3. Swarthy
    Paris Hilton

    I wonder...

    Is there a difference between a "closed" container and a "locked" container?

    If so, when you get stopped by the cops, lock your cell phone, and they can't get in without your PIN or Password, and you have 5th amendment rights there. 'Course across the pond they'll just RIPA it.

  4. Gary McDonald

    Lock it up!

    If you want to guarantee no officer can search it without an appropriate warrant, lock the phone. This goes for any "container" whether it is on your person or in a vehicle.

    This was told to me by a cop when I asked about the extent of probable cause searches and the limits.

  5. Remy Redert


    Even without PIN or password, I'm fairly certain they'll still be able to read the cell phone's content and the SIM's content. It'll just take a little extra effort.

    After all, with the provider's cooperation, they can just brute force the PIN if all else fails. And there's probably a backdoor for them to use the first place.

  6. Steven Hunter

    That's as may be...

    ...but he won't get out of jail.

    Because your phone records (aka "Line Usage Data" or LUDs) aren't generally protected by the fourth amendment and only require a subpoena to obtain, the police would have easily connected this fellow's phone with the other drug dealer, obtained a warrant, and gotten the pictures anyway. (It's called "inevitable discovery".)

  7. Gannon (J.) Dick

    This is good

    Not that I'd like to set this guy up with my sister, he had rock on him and he was going to jail, and his phone was in custody. But not very long ago, Authorities would have invented some impending terrorist attack script (those are secrets!!!!!!) instead to avoid the paperwork, which I am sure the arresting officers would have done had they been told to do it.

    You can take the SIM out and put it in another unlocked phone and .... Except that numbers not saved to the SIM would be lost. Unless you are having the trial within the hour, I'm sure the security features will not get in the way.

  8. Inachu


    Never in my lifetime would I divulge the contents of my cellphone but on the day they inspect my phone only to have 1 number going to a pizza ordering line.

    While they keep me in jail for not divulging information and they keep me in jail until I release the data.

    I'll let them keeep me in jail for over 25 years.

    Let them bore themselves to death.

    Worries me none.

    F*** big brother.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    About time

    Time to draw the line on illegal searches that they've been doing for some time now. Of course this guy is crap; and I hope they lock his arse up a long time for selling rock; but convicting him of that and illegally searching his phone are two entirely different matters. Looks like they used the use of the cellphone as part of their trumped up panoply of charges under the (two counts of possession of criminal tools). Good on 'em.

  10. ZenCoder

    criminal tools

    If they can treat an everyday object such as a cell phone as a criminal tool, why not his shoes.

    I'm sure his shoes were also very helpful to him while he was walking around selling crack. He probably couldn't conduct his criminal activity nearly as efficiently if he was barefoot.

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