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Police need warrant to search cell phones

Rochester, N.Y. - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that generally police must get a search warrant to look through someone's cellphone.

The high court reviewed two cases involving cell phone searches, one involving a basic flip phone and the other a smart phone.

In both cases police used information found on the phone to connect the suspect to the crime.

This ruling gives some clarity to what had been a gray area, how information on cellphones is gathered when someone is arrested.

When a police officer arrests someone the officer is allowed to search that person, for the officer's safety and to prevent destruction of evidence.

Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that if a cellphone is found on a person under arrest the officers can only check to see if it is a weapon, they must get a search warrant before looking through any of its digital information. The justices said the data on the phone can endanger no one and because it will be in police custody the arrested person will not be able to delete any possible evidence.

"Over the years we've had many cases where the police have seized cellphones and the prosecution was able to use the digital information stored on the cellphone," said Attorney Joe Damelio. "It's a mobile walking computer and the Supreme Court says people have a privacy interest in that even though it's in their pants pocket."

The New York State Police sent us this statement:

In the rare instances when cellphone records are used during an investigation, the records are obtained through proper legal channels, whether a subpoena or search warrant. It will not change the way tickets are issued for those people ticketed for distracted driving. A Trooper observes the individual talking or texting while driving, then issues a ticket.

 
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