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U.S. Supreme Court to weigh cell phone searches by police

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether police can search an arrested criminal suspect's cell phone without a warrant in two cases that showcase how the courts are wrestling to keep up with rapid technological advances.

Taking up a pair of cases arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant, the high court will wade into how to apply older court precedent - which allows police to search items carried by a defendant at the time of arrest - to cell phones. Many cell phones now contain a mass of personal information about the owner.

The legal question before the justices is whether a search for such information after a defendant is arrested violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bans unreasonable searches. The outcome would determine whether prosecutors in such circumstances could submit evidence gleaned from cell phones in court.

Under court precedent, police are permitted to search at the time of an arrest without a warrant, primarily to ensure the defendant is not armed and to secure evidence that could otherwise be destroyed.

In the first case, from California, David Riley was convicted of three charges relating to an August 2009 incident in San Diego in which shots were fired at an occupied vehicle. Prosecutors tied him to the crime in part due to a photograph on his smartphone that showed him posing in front of a car similar to one seen at the crime scene.

In the other case, the federal government is appealing after an appeals court threw out two of three drugs and firearms counts on which Brima Wurie had been convicted by a jury in Massachusetts. The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a May ruling that officers could not search Wurie's phone without a warrant after the September 2007 arrest for suspected drug dealing.

The court will hear oral arguments in April and issue rulings by the end of June.

The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132 and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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ordobtrebla January 18 2014 at 2:38 PM

I personally don't agree with eavesdropping...
But with the world being what it is with terrorism...
I hope somebody is listening...

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Emily January 18 2014 at 1:43 PM

No warrant no search. But even if the court rules in favor of the individual they will still give permission to search the phone. Because the police will otherwise say sorry but I have to take your phone into safe keeping until I can get a warrant to search it. Faced with the loss and convenience of the phone they will permit the search. Just like they do their automobile and even their homes. Amazing to me the number of people who complain about a police state being created when so many people will not even exercise their individual right to be left alone. Go figure.

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teeitup42142 January 18 2014 at 12:58 PM

let them do it we are a bunch of jerks if we don't tell the lawyers to buss off

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chuck January 18 2014 at 10:21 AM

our rights are in danger. oboma wants to do away with our rights. look out america, we are under a dictatorship in case you didnt know it!

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2 replies to chuck's comment
NICHOLAS January 18 2014 at 10:57 AM

Did you forget that Bush started the erosion of our rights in the name of security and his side kick would deride those who disagreed with him.

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1 reply to NICHOLAS's comment
ordobtrebla January 18 2014 at 2:50 PM

Still blaming Bush.???

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Hello Jay January 18 2014 at 11:29 AM

really schuck. maybe its just an issue with the color of the man thats in office right now, but the patriot act was the their before your current was in office. develope you own opinion and stop repeating what youve heard on the news it makes you look stupid in other circles outside of the ones where people that live and think like you

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mentalimagry January 18 2014 at 9:52 AM

It blows my mind how few people use the lock code feature on their cell phones. That will prevent a cop from being able to search it without your permission on a regular stop. And hopefully the SCOTUS will uphold that a search of your phone is the same as a search of your bank deposit box, home, and storage locker and will require a warrant for search.

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2 replies to mentalimagry's comment
Carolyn January 18 2014 at 11:05 AM

I think if the reason for stopping you is related to using the phone - checking to see if you were on the phone or texting- would be appropriate - but not looking through pictures, email, or other texts - without a warrant. shouldn't be allowed.

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Hello Jay January 18 2014 at 11:31 AM

thats stupid, its going to a court and they will decide dickweed

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marpo820 January 18 2014 at 9:21 AM

If it is on you when you get arrested, it is fair game. As long as you were stopped for cause.

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Hello Jay January 18 2014 at 11:32 AM

bullshit must be a pig or related to one

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garry January 18 2014 at 9:15 AM

In order to protect your rights, we're going to have to take them away from you.

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fr5dnn January 18 2014 at 9:04 AM

Come on folks, we gave up all our rights to freedom when we allowed the Patriot Act. All Homeland or ant Federal Agency has to do is declare you a terriost and you get no lawyer, no arrest warrant, you just disappear. Every time something major happens, the politicians declare we need more laws to make us safer. It's like the shooting at Sandy in NJ - A crazy guykilled his mother and got legal guns from her and bingo - up jumps all the politicians and blame it on some of the toughest gun laws in the world. They said, "We need more background checks and it wouldn'[t have affected the situation one bit.

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1 reply to fr5dnn's comment
Hello Jay January 18 2014 at 11:34 AM


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plewdawg January 18 2014 at 8:41 AM

NO!!!! How can this even be a discussion? Is the TSA feeling your junk ok? Is changing the ACA 17 times without legislative vote ok? The most corrupt administration in the history of this land. He really needs to go.........IMPEACH

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2 replies to plewdawg's comment
Paul January 18 2014 at 9:17 AM

I second the motion. To this Administration and the Socialist Democratic party not to mention all the RINOs our Constitution means nothing. Not the 1st, nor the 1st Amendment. They also want to trash our 2nd Amendment.
We need term limit for all our representatives and Dr. Benjamin Carson in the White House as a third party candidate in 2016

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BARRY AND KATHY January 18 2014 at 9:30 AM

How would you feel if he were a Republican?

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JOSEPH January 18 2014 at 8:40 AM

Hey! If criminals are dumb enough to take cell phone pictures at crime scenes or committing crimes then so be it.

Let the chips fall where they may.

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