Court weighs privacy rights vs. police access to your cellphone - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Court weighs privacy rights vs. police access to your cellphone


U.S. Supreme Court justices are considering whether cellphones are a private realm much like a home.

The court heard arguments in cases involving a drug dealer and a gang member whose convictions turned, in part, on evidence found on their cellphones.

A cellphone holds more of a treasure trove of insight into its owner's life and daily activities than one may realize.

"My credit card number, for sure," said Tulane University student Bryn Mckernin.

"My address, who my friends are," said iPhone user David Weinstein.

"My email, it's frequently logged into my Facebook," said Android user Michael Glass.

In response to a case in February, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said, "Searching a person's cell phone is like searching his home desk, computer, bank vault, and medicine cabinet all at once."

For decades, the courts have allowed police to empty a suspect's pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers' safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.

The question now: Should the old rule apply to new-age technology?

"Law enforcement will always say look at the great result we got. We put this bad guy behind bars. We get it. The bigger picture is, do we want to give away our right to privacy?" said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti. "A specific example of a good thing that happened when someone's privacy was breached shouldn't be the standard by which we judge all searches."

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be sanctioned by a judge and supported by probable cause.

Raspanti said no matter what the justices decide, warrants are already easily obtainable and can lead police to information most people believe is private.

"If anybody tweets, texts or sends an email and is under the opinion that this is a private communication, I would like the dissuade them of that opinion. I think they should look at all of those things as public information," said Raspanti.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected to take a few months.

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