Can Alito Really Be This Stupid?
Bill Quick

Justices split on whether police can search cellphones during arrests –

“People carry their entire lives on their cellphone,” she said during the argument involving a San Diego case. If there are no limits, a police officer could stop a motorist for not having seat belt buckled and download a huge amount of information, looking for some evidence of wrongdoing, she warned.

Such a search could include “every single email, all their bank records, all their medical records,” she said, as well as GPS data that would show everywhere they had traveled recently.

But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pressed the opposite view. Police who make an arrest have always been permitted to check a wallet, a billfold or a purse, and that might include personal photos.

“What’s the difference if the photos are in a billfold or on smartphone?” he asked. The smartphone may include more, but “I don’t see there’s much difference,” he said.

Dumbfuck.  If the guy has his computer in the back seat, do the cops get to search that without a warrant, too?

It would sure be nice to have some Justices that were at least marginally technologically literate.  You have to be a moron to see no difference between a wallet and a smartphone – let alone what phones will be like in a few years.

In the meantime, make sure you have industrial strength encryption and passwords on your phones.  And if you’re really smart, you’ll try to have some way to brick the beast if the gestapo confiscates it.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]

Another of the Amendments whose plain language has been corrupted and ignored by the very men who swear to defend the Constitution against all enemies – except themselves, I guess.

UPDATE:  Smart Phones at the Supreme Court | National Review Online

That argument got a skeptical reception. Justices pointed out that removing the smartphone from a suspect’s possession and searching it on the spot could save police officers from harm. For example, they could find a text sent right before the arrest wherein a suspect asks his fellow gang members for assistance. If police officers had to wait hours for a warrant to read that text, they could be ambushed.

I’m sorry, but this is authoritarian police state thinking, no more, no less. And I’m surprised to see the supposed constitutionalist on the court pushing it.  Actually, I’m not.  The sainted Scalia has never let the Constitution stand in the way of his own darker statist impulses.  Apparently that also goes for the “libertarian” Alito.


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Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Can Alito Really Be This Stupid? — 12 Comments

  1. Why are they allowed to check a wallet or billfold on a routine traffic violation stop in the first place? What does anything anyone is carrying in their wallet have anything to do with the actions taken in violating the traffic laws?

    AFAIAC they’re now using unconstitutional precedents to justify even further unconstitutional depredations into our lives.

  2. Ok I do need to read more carefully. They are talking about arrests and in the first paragraph traffic stops were cited by the opposition.

    Still during an arrest shouldn’t the search be related to the specific violation?

  3. For the typical police officer, there is no clear boundary between what’s on the phone and what the phone is able to access from the cloud. Do police have the right to look at every document you’ve ever written? Because that’s what people will be holding in the cloud in a few years, and it will be accessible from a person’s smartphone.

    The abysmal ignorance of lawyers about technology and just about anything else except law is getting worse every year. I’d like to ask Justice Alito, first, if his permissive “police can search anything” applies to the computers he owns. I believe we have precedent that at least personal computers require a warrant. Then I’d like to ask him how many computers he has in his house. He’s too ignorant to realize it, but the answer is at least a dozen: his laptop, his phone, his microwave, his dishwasher, his washer, his dryer, his thermostat, his refrigerator, his car key fob, his camera, probably his toaster (mine is), his exercise machine, his stereo, his set top TV box, his TV itself… Basically anything with an LED on it or an electronic button to push is a computer.

    Information is evidence, and these days electronics contain information about almost everything someone does. Protections against casual perusal by agents of the state need to be strengthened, not weakened.

    • Most of those things won’t have any information of value, but your point is taken.

      A better example is probably your car, which has multiple computers. IIRC you can pull from the OBD-II things like how fast the car has gone. Some modern cars have black boxes in them that record information about how fast you were going and whether or not you applied the brakes right before a crash, and again IIRC there was a move at some point to mandate all new cars have that facility at some point.

      • Well, the notion of “useful information” will change over time, as these devices become more sophisticated, and this Supreme Court decision is setting precedent. I tend to expect that, just because something has no useful or actionable information today, that will likely change in the future.

        Today’s refrigerator just regulates its temperature, defrost cycling, etc. But we’ll see ones that know all about the food they contain. And the microwave will eventually know when that food is cooked. That could be of interest to the next generations of health nazis. So would information from the exercise machine (“The machine says it was last used nine months ago. Sir, your statement that you get sufficient exercise was a lie. You are charged with knowingly misleading the Federal Health Assessment Commission.”)

        The stereo/TV/set top box together know what we’ve watched, and in many cases, what we’ve accessed on the Internet. The thermostat knows (or will know) how much you are using/wasting energy, and the next energy crisis could easily see the criminalization of such conduct.

        I know a lot of this sounds paranoid to many people, but to me, almost nothing sounds paranoid given the actions of various government levels and their increasing criminalization of what we do over the last few decades. We already unknowingly commit three felonies a day, according to some, and imagine how much worse it would be if various government agents could get documentary proof of those felonies just by tapping into the devices we use every day.

          • The thermostat knows (or will know) how much you are using/wasting energy, and the next energy crisis could easily see the criminalization of such conduct.

            In California, that’s already a reality. Not only can my “meter” read my energy use, it can be used to shut down my power entirely when “necessary.” It used to be that they had to turn off the grid to do that, but now they can do it on a unit-by unit basis. And someday, they will.

              • It’s a generator, Haverwilde. Why are they feeding it to the grid? Why would I want to pay for natural gas to turn myself into a feeder node for the national grid? Is the proposition that I’ll make more by selling power to the grid than the costs of gas and capital equipment?

                • Yes it is a generator, but it will also heat your house. One of these units is sufficient to run two to four homes. I want to be off of the grid, not feeding it. This unit will allow me to do that. $7000 is not inordinately expensive for that kind of freedom.
                  I would love to have a franchise for them here in Alaska (if they ever construct the gas pipeline from the north slope). We also have lots of isolated areas, that go without power, or use gas generators. One unit will heat and power the home, but you would still need to get gas, propane is easily available. But I have to check to see if there is any problem converting it from natural gas to propane.
                  I suspect that by feeding the grid, the unit does not need to have an extensive regulator system. It just pumps the excess out, and sucks in some at peak demand times. So I have more research to do.

  4. BTW on my Galaxy Note II, if you use a pattern lock instead of a pin, the phone will not make it’s contents available to USB the way it does if you only have swipe-to-unlock. I haven’t tried this with other Android phones, but I *do* have an old HTC Inspire I could charge up and try it with.

    Supposedly there’s programs cops can get that will pull all the data on your phone, but I wonder if that’s just some reporter’s inability to understand that if you plug your phone into a USB port on your computer, then the contents of the phone’s flash appears as if it were a thumb drive. My point was that with a pattern lock, at least on my phone, that’s not there–you have to unlock the phone first.

    A cop’s not going to get my pattern lock without a court order and threat of jail due to contempt charges. I suggest everyone with an Android phone turn on pattern lock just in case. I don’t expect to ever get arrested but I don’t see why I should give the cops everything on my phone.

    I believe iPhones work the same way–using the pattern lock actually protects the phone’s data. I haven’t got an iPhone to try, and I haven’t tested my Android to see if a PIN lock protects.