Officers need warrants to search cell phones

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Sunday, June 29th, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW)- The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that cellphones and smart phones can not be searched by police without a warrant. Something that will affect law enforcement in and out of the court room.

"It's an extra appendage of mine at this point. I dont go anywhere with out it," said Whitney Caudle.

Whitney Caudle like so many others have their life on their cell phone.
In the past if you got arrested police had the right to go through it.

"In the past say when someone's been arrested for a drug violation and they have a cell phone on them the police would usually go through the cell phone to see who their contacts were, who they were communicating with, to see if they were getting drugs from someone else, if they were selling drugs," said attorney William J. Sussman.

Now, police can examine the phone to make sure it won't be used as a weapon,
but if they want to have a look inside they'll have to get a warrant.

That's certainly going to be more cumbersome for the police officer because now he or she is going to have to establish probable cause.
Chief Justice John Roberts says "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. Privacy comes at a cost"
What's a cost for law enforcement could be a gain for a defense attorney.

More procedures that law enforcement has to follow to establish a case of conduct an investigation the more areas there are for a defense attorney to find some sort of fault in where the procedure was followed.

Caudle's opinion mirrors the Supreme Court's and says she thinks those extra procedures are a good thing.

"That's why we have the legal system if they have probable cause absolutely search the phone. Not everybody is up to no good so obviously you want to have a little bit of privacy," said Caudle.

On the other hand, one lawyer says narcotics investigations could take a hit.

"It could effect narcotics investigations or other more serious crimes," said Sussman.

News 12 reached out to Richmond County Sheriff's Office to see how this will affect them
and they said this is so new that they're still figuring it out themselves.