Searching A Cell Phone Without A Warrant

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The US Supreme Court is considering whether police can search the cell phones of people they arrest without first obtaining a warrant.
Many consider this is as a complete violation of the 4th Amendment.

With smart phones basically acting as a portable computer nowadays, it's easy to find out virtually anything about a person just by searching their cell phone.

Kyle Ridgeway, attorney at Jamieson & Robinson, LLC says, "in this digital age, where we've got smartphones, you know you could pull my smartphone out of my pocket right now and find out almost everything you wanted about me. From bank records, text messages, photos, social media. Everything."

Officials say obtaining a warrant to search a cell phone is basically the same process as obtaining a warrant to search a house.

Lt. Mike Thompson of Casper Police Dept. says, "basically the same thing here with a phone, you're going to basically be able to provide that there's probably cause to believe that there would be information related to the crime in the phone."

Not all circumstances require a warrant. For instance, in emergency situations requiring officials to react quickly.

Ridgeway says, "generally there are exceptions to the warrant requirement like egsegent (sp?) circumstances where you're dealing with an emergency situation where you've got to go into a house after a fleeing felon."

Ridgeway says the courts must keep up with the ever-changing technology to make sure justice is served with reason.

"With a cell phone, I don't think it fits into the exceptions because it's a container withing a container, within a container, of digital information that's something that the courts have never dealt with before."

Bottom line, the Supreme Court is working on adapting the 4th Amendment to modern technologies.

"For example, if you got pulled over for speeding and a police officer can search your cell phone for any reason based on the fact that they stopped you for some low level crime, i think that would be a significant invasion of privacy."

The US Supreme Court is hearing two cases today involving police searching suspects' cell phones without a warrant, which ultimately lead to their convictions and lengthy prison terms.