Media Advisory: SCC to rule on search and seizure of cell phones

Ottawa – On December 11, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada will release its decision in R. v. Fearon. This case considers whether the power to search incident to a lawful arrest includes the authority to search the contents of a cell phone.

Mr. Fearon was arrested for armed robbery. During a pat-down search in connection with the arrest, a police officer found Mr. Fearon’s cell phone. The police officer searched the contents of the phone during the arrest and found photographs of a gun and cash, along with an incriminating text message. The cell phone was seized during the arrest and was searched several times over the next couple of days. A search warrant was later obtained and the photos and text message were entered into evidence at Mr. Fearon’s trial.

The BCCLA is an intervener in this case. At the core of the BCCLA’s argument is the profound privacy interest that individuals have in their cell phones. The BCCLA argues that a warrant should always be required for the search of cell phones, even when they are found incident to a lawful arrest. Along with all manner of private information (including photos, videos, notes, calendar, financial information, contact lists, GPS location information, internet browsing history), cell phones also contain private communications. The BCCLA takes the position that cell phone searches are the modern-day equivalent of a wiretap on a phone and a search of your computer files. The BCCLA argued that the police should not be authorized to search cell phones without a warrant issued beforehand and without the heightened scrutiny required for the interception of private communications.

The BCCLA is represented by Gerald Chan and Nader Hasan of Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan.

Read more about the case here.

The BCCLA’s argument in this case is available here.

  • What: Supreme Court of Canada to deliver its judgment in R. v. Fearon

  • When: Reasons for judgment will be delivered on December 11, 2014 (9:45 am EST/6:45 am PST)
  • Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
  • Who: Representatives of the BCCLA available for comment