Sketch by Art Lien, who has been drawing SCOTUS since 1978.

Landmark DIGITAL PRIVACY ruling by SCOTUS.
Sketch by Art Lien, who has been drawing SCOTUS since 1978.

Seeing an individual with a cellphone is such a common thing today, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote, “the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” [SCOTUSBLOG]

THE SUPREME COURT just defined the word landmark, outlining “strict new technology-based limits” on how police officers can interpret the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, according to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBLOG.

Treating modern cellphones as gaping windows into nearly all aspects of the user’s life and private conduct, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ordered police to get a search warrant before examining the contents of any such device they take from a person they have arrested…

The Court rejected every argument made to it by prosecutors and police that officers should be free to inspect the contents of any cellphone taken from an arrestee.

It left open just one option for such searches without a court order: if police are facing a dire emergency, such as trying to locate a missing child or heading off a terrorist plot. But even then, it ruled, those “exigent” exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant would have to satisfy a judge after the fact.

The ruling was such a sweeping embrace of digital privacy that it even reached remotely stored private information that can be reached by a hand-held device “” as in the modern-day data storage “cloud.”

And it implied that the tracking data that a cellphone may contain about the places that an individual visited also is entitled to the same shield of privacy.

Reading Lyle Denniston at this time of the year is required.