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Supreme Court Takes On Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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WASHINGTON (WJZ)–Would you want police to go through your cell phone? That’s more than a personal issue.

Alex DeMetrick reports it’s now a question being weighed by the Supreme Court.

What’s in your cell phone? Odds are, a lot more than a few frequently called numbers.

For police, a phone’s content could provide leads, evidence and even suspects.

Getting access is now a legal question.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t agree. I don’t think they should be able to,” a man said.

“I don’t think it’s any problem. Honestly, if you’ve got something to hide, you shouldn’t be doing anything wrong,” another man said.

According to University of Baltimore law professor Byron Warnken, www.warnkenlaw.com, police have the right to take a cell phone during an arrest.

“And it’s been this way for many, many years. I may seize everything within your lunge, reach and grasp,” Warnken said.

It’s allowed primarily to protect an officer’s safety.

What is now before the Supreme Court is a defendant’s challenge to police searching a phone’s data without first getting a warrant.

From the bench, Justice Elena Kagan noted, “people carry their entire lives on their cell phones. That’s the world we live in.”

While Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Our rule has been if you carry it on your person, you ought to know it is subject to seizure and examination.”

Court watchers aren’t always sure how a decision will go.

“If I had to predict, I predict the defendant wins five to four,” Warnken said.

Hang on for the decision.

The decision could affect a lot of us. Ninety percent of Americans use cell phones; 58 percent own data rich smart phones.

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