The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has ruled it is now legal for police to search cell phones without a warrant.
The court decision stems from an Indiana case where police arrested a man for dealing drugs and an officer searched the suspect’s cell phone without warrant.
Judge Richard Posner agreed that the officer had to search the phone immediately or risk losing evidence. He ruled it was a matter of urgency, because it was possible for someone to wipe the phone clean using a computer or other remote device.
Judge Posner ruled that the search was legal because the officer conducted a limited search and only looked for phone numbers associated with the alleged drug deal. The judge said it was similar to flipping through a diary to search for addresses and phone numbers.
However, critics call the ruling an invasion of privacy that outweighs the needs of law enforcement. The case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme court.