Canadian Supreme Court rules police can search cell phones without warrant

On Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a 4-3 vote that police officers are not required to have a judge sign a warrant in order to search a suspect's cell phone. While this certainly sends up red flags for privacy advocates, and rightly so, there are certain requirements that need to be met for a cell phone search to be valid.

The court decision rules that police have the right to search a suspect's cell phone when a lawful arrest is being made, meaning they can't stop you on the street for questioning and ask you to hand over your smartphone. Also required is a valid reason for the phone search, the search must be related to the crime that the arrest was made for, and officers must keep detailed notes of their search.

The case was brought to the court as a result of a jewelry robbery where two suspects were arrested by police, and when one of their phones was searched, an incriminating text message and photo were found. These two pieces of evidence were then used in the suspects' conviction. The defendants argued that their cell phones contained extensive personal information, and as the search didn't have a warrant, it was a violation of their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

In his decision, Justice Thomas Cromwell stated that they were trying to balance Canadian citizens' rights against unreasonable searches, and the need for law enforcement and security. While this Supreme Court decision will be subject to further study in the future, in the meantime it is actually a step in favor of privacy rights, as before this Canadian police had no restrictions on searching cell phones during arrests.

VIA GigaOm

SOURCE Supreme Court of Canada