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Strike a blow for privacy.  In a rare unanimous decision in an important Fourth Amendment case, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that police officers who arrest someone must get a warrant before searching their cellphone.

At some level, Riley v. California revives the importance of warrants: decisions by a neutral judge about who and what may be searched.  The Fourth Amendment generally requires warrants based on “probable cause” before the government may search a person or property.  But the warrant requirement has more holes than Swiss cheese.  Over the years, courts have created any number of exceptions: searches incident to arrest, searches under exigent circumstances, searches of items in plain view, searches of glove compartments in cars, among many others.  When police officers effect an arrest, they usually need no warrant to search the person for weapons or evidence of a crime: a gun, a razor blade, a bag of drugs.

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