Supreme Court Ruling Prevents Police From Searching Cell Phones During Arrest

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a landmark Supreme Court ruling on cell phones and privacy. The nation’s highest court says police cannot search a person’s phone during an arrest.

Christie Ileto reports it’s comforting news to many Marylanders who keep a slew of personal information on their smart phones.

What this means is that police now need a search warrant to go through your phone. They can’t go fishing through the device because you’re in their custody.

It’s not just a cell phone.

“It’s the doorway to my banking, my employer,” said Jules Ung.

And it’s staying that way. The nation’s highest court has banned warrantless searches of a suspect’s cell phone.

“What I think is most significant about today’s decision is the recognition that cell phones are different,” said David Rocah, ACLU of Maryland.

From banking apps to personal emails, cell phones aren’t just like a purse or wallet. For many Americans, they carry their entire lives.

More than 90 percent of Americans have cell phones–58 percent have smart phones.

“So the bottom line is–I agree with the ruling. I don’t think it should have been an issue,” said Shane Owens.

But warrantless searches have long been justified to stop suspects from destroying evidence and protect officers from unseen weapons.

“We have to develop that probable cause like we had to begin with,” said Lt. T.J. Smith, Anne Arundel County Police.

Anne Arundel County Police say Wednesday’s ruling is just a minor adjustment.

“There’s a ton of personal and private information in these cell phones these days that isn’t relevant to a particular crime or a particular incident,” Smith said. “So now that we’re going to have to get a search warrant to go through it, it just protects people.”

Ileto: “What does this mean for future cases?”

Rocah: “The most important thing that it means is that the court is willing to look at the nature of the technology involved and what information can be gleaned from it.”

The Supreme Court did say there are some circumstances where police can search a suspect’s cell phone without a warrant if there’s an active emergency and people are in danger.

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