Criminal Practice

The U.S. Supreme Court Takes on Cellphones and Privacy

, The Legal Intelligencer


Business people on flying smartphones.
Business people on flying smartphones.

Kennedy wrote in King that the swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment and therefore had to be justified as reasonable under the circumstances. The procedure was reasonable given "the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody."

Last year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police violated the U.S. Constitution when they placed a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car and monitored its movements for nearly a month.

Walter Dellinger, a lawyer for the defendant in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), told The New York Times the decision "is a signal event in Fourth Amendment history."

"Law enforcement is now on notice," he said, "that almost any use of GPS electronic surveillance of a citizen's movement will be legally questionable unless a warrant is obtained in advance."

The decisions in Riley and Wurie will be closely scrutinized. Will the Supreme Court restrict or expand the protections of the Fourth Amendment? The high court's record in recent decisions provides little guidance. 

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His book, "The Executioner's Toll, 2010," is due out this summer. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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