Experts weigh in on ruling that police must get warrant to search cell phones

WICHITA, Kansas – Individual privacy supporters applauded a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that determined that the contents of cell phones can only be released to law enforcement through a search warrant.

It’s because “a person’s life and their privacy can be reconstructed, said the court, by means of their smartphone,” according to Dan Monnat, a legal analyst.

Local law enforcement agencies tell KSN there will not be much of a change to the way they operate in light of the ruling.

In the case of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office, they already work with the district attorney’s office to get search warrants, including cell phone records.

“We’re going to have the same procedures,” Lt. David Mattingly said. “It’s the Supreme Court’s decision. It’s not our place to argue that; it’s our place to follow what they say.”

There is concern the ruling could allow suspects to conceal evidence on their cell phone. As it stands, officers are trained to find other things to establish probable cause.

“There’s going to have to be something else tied with other than someone has a cell phone, that the deputy or detective will have to articulate in a search warrant application, and then a judge and district attorney’s office agree with that deputy that probable cause does exist,” Lt. Mattingly said.

In the majority opinion, the justices acknowledged that the ruling could impede some investigations, but considered it a small cost to pay to protect individual privacy.

“If these devices can be used for unlawful means, and the law enforcement officers have particular facts to demonstrate that, it should not be a problem for those officers to get a search warrant,” Monnat said.

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