Ohio Supreme Court bars warrantless cellphone searches

Cell phones are more like computers than containers, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Tuesday, meaning police need a warrant to search them.

The 4-3 decision came down on the side of a suspected drug dealer, Antwaun Smith, who was arrested in 2007 in Greene County in southwestern Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Smith argued police violated his rights by taking his phone and examining the data to see if he had called a police informant.

“We hold that the warrantless search of data within a cell phone seized incident to a lawful arrest is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment when the search is unnecessary for the safety of law enforcement officers and there are no exigent circumstances,” Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote for the majority.

In a minority opinion, Justice Robert R. Cupp argued examining information about calls stored in a cell phone resembles looking through an address book. He said if police do not need a warrant to look through an address book found on a suspect, they should not need one for a cell phone.

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