The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police officers usually need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect's cellphone.
The 9-0 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts held the right of police to search an arrested suspect at the scene without a warrant does not extend in most circumstances to data held on a cellphone. Still, there are some emergency situations in which a warrantless search would be permitted, the court said.
Ruling on two cases from California and Massachusetts, the justices acknowledged both a right to privacy and a need to investigate crimes. But they came down squarely on the side of privacy rights.
Seeing someone with a cellphone is such a common thing today, that "the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy," Roberts wrote. "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime...Privacy comes at a cost."