Warrants required for police to search cell phones

By unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled police officers must get a search warrant before they can search the phone of a person they are arresting.

Police officers must get a search warrant before they can search the phone of a person they are arresting. That was the unanimous decision made Wednesday by the United States Supreme Court, protecting one's personal privacy.

Before the ruling, if you got arrested, police could search your phone and everything on it. Defense attorney David Torres says requiring a warrant before the search is a step toward the return of the 4th Amendment protections.

"So this person is basically looking into your life in his hand and going through everything you have with respect to text messages and e-mails. So, that is a significant intrusion," said Torres.

All nine Supreme Court justices agreed Wednesday, voting police can't just look through your phone because you're under arrest. They need a search warrant to do so.

"Then get on your duffs, sit in front of your computer and write a search warrant and establish your probable cause. And, if you have enough a judge will sign it. And, if you don't, a judge won't. But, all we are asking you to do is do your job, work," said Torres of police.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood says they will.

"It makes our job really a lot easier because we know what the parameters are. And in this particular case, it really gives us a pathway to do what we need to to," said Sheriff Youngblood of the ruling.

Sheriff Youngblood says while the ruling may cost them time, it will be minimal because of technology. They can get warrants electronically from a magistrate all day, every day. And during an arrest, an officer may keep a suspect's phone and turn it off to keep it from being erased remotely, until they get permission to search it.

"Getting a search warrant is just another one of those check marks that you have to do that you know you have to do when you go to court, it is required to do. It's really not that big of a thing for us. And if you don't have probable cause, quite frankly I don't want you going through my phone either," said Sheriff Youngblood.

There is one gray area in the court's ruling. It still allows police to search a cell phone without permission under "exigent circumstances" meaning, when someone's life is at risk or there is a threat evidence is about to be destroyed.

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Bakersfield, CA