April 28, 2014: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether police should have to get a warrant when searching cell phones incident to arrest according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Technology experts fear that with the technology available on the market like Cellebrite which can blow past passwords, security encryption, password extraction, and even access deleted data not available to the phone user. Imagine when a DUI arrest could lead to law enforcement gathering all your passwords and searching your bank accounts, social media, email, and contacts. The mind boggles at the implications of law enforcement technological fishing expeditions, reputation assassinations, and plea bargain extortion. Remember the dirty DUI scandal in San Francisco last year. Imagine the implications of warrantless cell phone searches in that context. Remember Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The Georgia Supreme Court addressed this issue in Hawkins v. State, 290 Ga. 785, 786 (723 SE2d 924) (2012), and held that a cell phone “search must be limited as much as is reasonably practicable by the object of the search. [Cit.]”. The Georgia Supreme Court will not approve a warrantless “fishing expedition” of a cell phone or tolerate law enforcement sifting through all of the data stored in the cell phone. The Hawkins Court concluded that when “the object of the search is to discover certain text messages, for instance, there is no need for the officer to sift through photos or audio files or Internet browsing history data stored [in] the phone.” The cases are David L. Riley v. California, No. 13-132, Supreme Court of the United States, January 17, 2014, and United States v. Brima Wurie, No. 13-212, Supreme Court of the United States, January 17, 2014.
-Author: George Creal