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Attorney General Peter Kilmartin Praises SCOTUS Decision Requiring Search Warrants for Cell Phones

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued the following statement praising the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in Riley v. California, requiring law enforcement to obtain search warrants for cell phones in most cases.

"The Opinion of the Court, authored by the Chief Justice, wisely and sensibly held as a matter of constitutional law that police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested.

"With the rapid advancement in technology, it will continue to be a challenge to find a balance between the right to privacy and need for swift action by law enforcement when pursuing justice. I believe the Justices found that right balance in today's opinion. Further, I believe it is better for our criminal justice system and this great nation for these issues to be debated to ensure that our government does not encroach on our right to privacy. An expectation of privacy and freedom from overreaching eyes and ears of government is what sets the United States apart from so many other countries. I applaud the Justices in recognizing the need to preserve and protect our right to privacy.

"As the Justices outline, law enforcement have reasonable methods to protect and preserve evidence on cell phones while obtaining the proper warrants. In addition, this holding conforms to Office of Attorney General's longstanding practice and policy to counsel law enforcement to obtain a warrant prior to the seizure and search of a suspect's cell phone."

Note to Media: Because the cell phones at issue in the Supreme Court decision actually belonged to the arrestees, the Opinion of the Court does not in any way implicate or undermine the Rhode Island Supreme Court's recent decision in Patino, dealing with the separate question as to whether a Defendant has standing to challenge the police search of another person's cell phone.

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