Supreme Court to weigh in on warrantless cellphone searches

By Kyle Johnson,

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear two similar appeals that revolve around whether or not police have a right to search a suspect's cellphone without a warrant.

According to The New York Times, the justices will need to determine whether or not cellphones are covered under the Fourth Amendment, which prevents "unreasonable searches and seizures."

Law Professor Orin S. Kerry, of the George Washington University, said, "The implications of these cases are huge."

The Justice Department feels that police should be allowed to examine a suspect's cellphone, the way they have been allowed by courts to conduct certain warrantless searches for years. However, not everyone agrees.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled against evidence found on the phone of a high school student charged with causing a disturbance. The ruling noted, "Searching a person's cellphone is like searching his home desk, computer, bank vault and medicine cabinet all at once."

USA Today suggests that the Supreme Court justices might go with a compromise of sorts as they have ruled differently on cases regarding what does and doesn't require a warrant.

They have said getting a suspect's DNA through a cheek swap doesn't need one, but ruled the other way when it comes to attaching a GPS to a suspect's car or obtaining a suspected drunk driver's blood sample.

The two cases being heard involve police searching a cellphone without a warrant to find evidence. One case occurred in California, where the suspect was stopped in his car and police found weapons in the car and photos and videos on his phone. A Massachusetts case, which was more limited, involved cops making a street arrest and learning of possession of drugs and weapons kept at the suspect's home.

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