The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, in a split vote, that police don’t need a search warrant to look at the contents of an arrest suspect’s cell phone.
Officers have to meet several conditions first, including taking detailed notes on how they searched and what they found.
Police in the U.S. need a warrant to conduct such a search, and rightly so.
This is a major issue of privacy.
Historically, police have had the right, during an arrest, to search a person’s purse or carry bag for evidence related to a suspected crime, or for weapons.
A cell phone could be a weapon, as seen with the Boston Marathon bombings.
And one could contain information compromising public safety, or be used to evade law enforcement.
But should cell phones, or any mobile digital device be an exception to those historical rules?
According to the Supreme Court decision, prompt access to a cell phone could help locate an accomplice to a crime or preserve evidence that would be otherwise lost.
A review of recent calls or text messages may help locate the other perpetrators, preventing further crimes.
Only recent e-mails, texts, photos and the call log will be available, according to the majority judges.
The minority, however, felt that cell phones are different than carry bags and should be treated differently.
They are computers, and search warrants are required to check those in homes. Cell phones contain vast amounts of personal information, which is why they have password access.
Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is correct in this case, that because the capacity to discover private information on a cell phone is so much greater than if being frisked, a warrantless search is unreasonable.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News