Between a rock and a hard place

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Let me ask you? If you were one day pulled over, let’s just say for speeding 5mph over the limit, and the cops asked to see your phone, would you let them? Technically, the police can search through your phone, without a warrant.

On April 29, the Supreme Court held a hearing about whether the police can search through a suspect’s phone with or without a warrant. The decision isn’t expected until the summer, but this is a call that should be made to protect our privacy rights.

In this day and age where phones are now called “smartphones” and carry a trove of our information, from bank accounts to email to photos, of course, and these devices can be heavily scrutinized if seized, whether it’s relevant to a case or not. Most of what is found on our phones is stuff that used to be home but is now on the go with us. With the police being able to search our phones without a warrant, these items that used to be protected by the Fourth Amendment are no longer; simply because it is on our mobile devices instead of at home. The contents in phones aren’t in the officer’s plain view, they have to dig through them and that is illegal without a warrant. Our phones should be protected just as our home is from warrant-less searches.

During the hearing, California Solicitor General Edward DuMont argued in favor of continuing warrant-less searches, that people “choose” to carry their phones around and that they should have no “expectation of privacy.” According to Nina Totenberg of NPR, Supreme Justice Elena Kagan replied, incredulously, “are you saying one has to keep a cellphone at home to have an expectation of privacy?” When I first heard DuMont’s argument, I literally shook my head. I mean, really? We have absolutely NO right to privacy on our phones? That we’re supposed to leave our cellular devices, which we use to make calls, at home to expect privacy. It just doesn’t add up to a strong point.

One can argue that immediate search of a phone is important because the owner could potentially erase evidence, and the tediousness of getting a warrant will only hinder an investigation. But in the broadest sense, any little crime can get anyone’s phone seized. So to protect our rights, warrants should be the way to go. Again, it might be tedious but it’ll generally protect our right to privacy, it’s the best route.

The nation has evolved immensely since the time of our Founding Fathers. And while the country has had some trouble updating our amendments with the evolving times (“right to bear arms” anyone?) I think that this case is a no-brainer and obvious: protect our privacy. Update the Fourth to include phones.