Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Supreme Court Cites NIST Mobile Forensics Guide in Ruling on Cell Phone Searches

As digital technology transforms 21st century life, questions about privacy rights abound. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one such question in late June: if you are arrested, can the police search your cell phone without first obtaining a warrant?

No, according to the June 25, 2014, ruling in Riley v California. In considering the question, the court had to mesh established policy on search warrants together with an understanding of cell phone technology.

To help with that challenge, the justices turned to a variety of sources, among them the NIST Guidelines on Mobile Device Forensics. The unanimous court opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, cites this document three times.

The ruling focuses on two separate cases in which police arrested suspects and searched their cell phones without first obtaining a search warrant. In both cases, state and federal prosecutors argued that the searches were justified to prevent the suspects from destroying evidence. Courts have long allowed that police can search an area within the suspect's immediate reach without a warrant.