Perhaps one of the most significant search and seizure cases for the digital age is centered around a college student who was initially pulled over for a routine traffic stop.
He was ultimately arrested for driving with a suspended license and the police impounded his smartphone AFTER scrolling through it to find incriminating evidence of videos and photos of gang activity. The phone landed him in prison for 15 years. You can read aboutthe case here.
The US Supreme Court will now decide whether the police illegally searched that smartphone without a warrant. Oral arguments on this issue were held this week and a decision is expected by June.
In a time when a smart phone contains as much information as a home computer or office file cabinets once did, this Fourth Amendment issue about what is a permissible search of a smartphone by the Government will surely be significant.
So, college students should again be aware that what you think may be “private” is not. Just like a Facebook page that is “private” or a dorm room that is “private”, a telephone may not protected from routine searches by the police. We’ll just have to wait and see but in the meantime, I wouldn’t keep anything like incriminating photos on my cell phone.