Police now need warrant to search cell phones - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Police now need warrant to search cell phones


In a strong defense of digital age privacy, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that police may not generally search the cell phones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

Cell phones are powerful devices unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court. Because the phones contain so much information, police must get a warrant before looking through them, Roberts said.

"To me that's a privacy thing. They don't need to go through my phone. I mean I just use it for personal use, they don't need to check that," said Cape Girardeau shopper Kim Madding.

"Everyone's entitled to some privacy and I think that the cell is a very private tool and it should be kept that way." said cell user Rodney Tweedy.

Cape Girardeau police say the new law will not necessarily change the way they conduct investigations.

"It really kind of depends on the kind of investigation it is," said Cape Police Chief Wes Blair. "If we're looking at a narcotics investigation and trying to determine the person, because a lot of people nowadays will keep their records on their phones instead of pen and paper."

"Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life," Roberts said.

The message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cell phone's contents following an arrest is simple. "Get a warrant," Roberts said.

The chief justice acknowledged that barring searches would affect law enforcement, but said: "Privacy comes at a cost."

The court chose not to extend earlier rulings that allow police to empty a suspect's pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers' safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.

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