In a unanimous decision this morning, the United States Supreme Court held that police must obtain a search warrant before searching through a cell phone seized during an arrest. With all the many things that we store in our cell phones: pictures, messages, emails, bank information etc., it is surprising that before today law enforcement officers did not need a warrant to go through your phone. In fact it was widely assumed by many people that such a requirement was already in place. We’ve had more than a few consultations with clients where this strange and outdated policy had to be explained. But as of today, the law of the land has finally caught up with the 21st century.

The Court acknowledged in Davis v. California that cell phones in 2014 store troves of personal information, and that “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.” Chief Justice John Roberts went on to say that cellphones “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” Cannot argue with that logic.

The 4th Amendment, as many people know, protects us from unreasonable searches (among other things). Soon after a person is arrested, however, the law regarding the 4th Amendment can get very murky. So it is nice to have another bright-line rule regarding a common search issue, and it is nice to celebrate another victory for our privacy.