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Police Need Warrant To Search Cell Phone

Updated: Wednesday, June 25 2014, 09:26 PM CDT

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - A unanimous decision by the US Supreme Court on Wednesday  is changing the way information on cell phones  is protected during  police searches. The ruling makes it illegal for police to search a cellphone without a warrant.
"When I started in law enforcement 30 some years ago, we didn't even know what cell phones were,” Colonel John Stuelke, Chief Deputy with the Linn County Sheriff’s Department said.


He added that in his time in law enforcement, the way information is disseminated has certainly changed.


“People do everything on their cell phone, they’re never without it. They’re always on it, their life story is found in their cell phone,” Stuelke said.


Sam Jones, the Vice President of Shuttleworth and Ingersol PLC said the ruling by the US Supreme Court willl still allow police access to data.


“This isn’t the court saying this information can’t be accessed, it’s that police officers need to show good cause to a judge, and if that cause exists, then a search will be conducted,” Jones said.


The  International Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against the ruling saying the decision, " Will undoubtedly impact law enforcement's ability to investigate and combat crime,” the IACP said.


Locally, the reaction is much different, both the Linn County Sherriff’s Department and the Marion Police Department said getting a search warrant is already procedure.


“When you’re submitting evidence in a case, if it’s not collected legally then the judge can choose to throw that evidence out, and many times the evidence collected on a cell phone is the most important evidence that you use in trying a case,” Stuelke said.


Senator Chuck Grassley also backs the decision saying it is fundamental to the US Constitution's 4th Amendment.


“This court decision is a very necessary extension of that right to privacy,” Senator Grassley said.


Jones added that he agrees with the changes on a personal level.


"As a citizen, maybe not as a Supreme Court scholar, I'm happy with the opinion because I think it acknowledges that these phones and the information that they hold and they link to it is unique,” Jones


There are exceptions to the decision. If police feel there is immediate danger, such as when a kidnapping has happened, or there is a bomb threat, they can search a cell phone. After the search, they will have to answer for their actions and prove why they conducted a search.


"While it is an exception, it’s an extremely narrow exception," Jones said.


“99 times out of 100 we’re going to air on the side of caution and ask for a search warrant,” Stuelke said.


 


Police Need Warrant To Search Cell Phone


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