Police Abuse

Canadian Supreme Court Lets Police Conduct Warrantless Cell Phone Searches of Arrestees


Credit: C-SPAN

In June 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that police officers who search the cell phones of arrested individuals without first obtaining a search warrant are in violation of the Fourth Amendment. "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple," declared Chief Justice John Roberts in Riley v. California: "get a warrant."

The Canadian Supreme Court, by contrast, has decided to give its country's police officers much more room to maneuver. In a decision handed down this week, Canada's high court ruled that a warrantless cell phone search incident to arrest is perfectly legitimate under Canadian law. Sean Fine of Toronto's Globe and Mail has the story:

In a crime ruling that earned it rare praise from the federal government, the Supreme Court of Canada said police may search cellphones without a warrant when they make an arrest.

Cellphones are the bread and butter of the drug trade, the majority said in a 4-3 ruling. It said police have been given the "extraordinary power" to do warrantless searches during an arrest, under common-law rules developed by judges over centuries, because of the importance of prompt police investigations. Until now, those searches typically included purses and briefcases….

"Prompt access by law enforcement to the contents of a cellphone may serve the purpose of identifying accomplices or locating and preserving evidence that might otherwise be lost or destroyed," Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justices Richard Wagner and Michael Moldaver.

NEXT: Rider Aimed at Stopping Marijuana Legalization in Washington, D.C., Reflects Prohibitionist Weakness

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I thought drugs were the bread and butter of the drug trade.

    1. Cell phones are a necessity for many businesses. Try to take their cell phone/hot spot from a realtor and watch their reaction.

  2. so all the progtards who think the US should more closely emulate Canada and Europe, is one of the things we should copy? Because last I heard, progs were not friends of cops, despite their avowed taste for authority.

    1. Not just taste. They want it all over their face, neck, and chest as well.

    2. They’re not friends of “racist” cops. Because everything is identity politics with them. You think they hated the cops at Waco or Ruby Ridge? You think they’d have any problem with cops choking a white guy who was selling untaxed cigarettes? They love the state and everything about it, and honestly believe that when the state turns its powers on them or someone they care about its only because the state doesn’t have enough power to crush badthink.

      1. Maybe they’ll care when cops start choking white guys selling illicit artisanal mayonnaise.

  3. Alt text: Imma let you finish, but the Nazgul made the best decision of all time about this issue. OF ALL TIME.

  4. Oh, I’m so glad that I live in a country where police don’t have overarching powers over the citizens, like those filthy Americans!

    /Average Canadian

  5. Like anyone in Canada even has a cell phone.

    1. Cell Phones, hell I didn’t think they had a supreme court and they just ink stamp our rulings with “CANADA TOO”

      1. If only, we’d have significantly better gun laws (at the very least) in that case.

      2. Not our rulings on freedom of speech, they don’t.

  6. Oh, Canada.

  7. If the Canadian officer had to trudge all the way through the damned snow to make the arrest, he’s gonna take a peek inside the cell phone.

  8. I can see where if you arrest a guy for having 12 kilos of coke in the trunk of his car a cell phone search may be in order, but I suspect an awful lot of cell phone searches involve cute coeds near the college who failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign or looked like they were driving a mile or two over the sspeed limit.

    “Reasonableness” in the case of searching purses or briefcases is predicated on the (frequently fictitious) idea that there might be a weapon in there – what weapon might you find in a cell phone? If it’s a search for evidence related to whatever crime they were arrested for, there has to be some possibility of finding what you’re looking for on the cell phone and it’s a search for evidence to which the usual rules should apply.

    What this sounds like is okaying fishing expeditions. Everybody might be a drug dealer and everybody might have text messages on their phones confirming that fact?

  9. I buy almost everything except food and clothing from online auctions most people aren’t aware of the almost I unbelievable deals that they can get from online auction sites the site that has the best deals is…..
    BEST HOME BASE GIFT——– http://snipr.com/29inp5v

  10. That doesn’t look like the Canadian flag in the background.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.