If the ACLU has it’s way, there will be link, if somewhat distant, between James Madison and Boston crack dealer Brima Wurie. Yes folks, this is about the Fourth Amendment and this Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether your cell phone is like your home, and thus sheltered from unreasonable search and seizure. The two cases to be heard involve a drug dealer and gang member in San Diego and our drug dealer in Boston. Their defense will argue that any search of their client’s cell phones should have been accompanied by a search warrant and their subsequent convictions — information on the cell phones in question led to the finding of drugs and guns belonging to the suspects — should be thrown out. We’ve come a long way from the protections demanded by citizens of the 13 Colonies against the invasive general searches they suffered under the British Monarchy, whose officials were usually looking for goods they could tax. Prohibitions against general warrants were written into state law in Virginia and Massachusetts and other states before Madison framed the Fourth Amendment.

So is checking out the cell phone of a suspected crack dealer unreasonable search and seizure? The answer would seem, obviously not. One fears, however, that whatever the Supreme Court rules — or more likely because the Supreme Court likely will leave the door open for the Legislature to adapt laws to changing technology — this issue is going to return to the courts, (and Congress perhaps), at some point in the near future. How high would the bar be raised for probable cause to apply? Imagine a pedofile deleting images on his smart phone as law enforcement officials frantically do the paperwork. For those in the legal profession who worship at the altar of process, especially defence lawyers, search warrants for cell phones with rigorous protections would surely seem to be justice. For members of the law enforcement community, they would be another shackle on their ability to fight crime.

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