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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...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
phnerad January 18 2014 at 5:50 AM

We usually rank 20 th to 18 th in the world for freedom by the free press world wide ....... we certainly are not first ...... the Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves .

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wiredfld January 18 2014 at 6:51 AM

An example of why this must be stopped now, Michigan State police were demanding cell phones on routine traffic stops, then gleaning for all activity.This isnt something that has to be decided, it has been. Phone records, mail, your home, all require A warrant, in light of how easily we rolled over after the NSA searches, all of our rights and freedoms will soon be handed over, and thats much scarier than having them taken away

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1 reply
Perry wiredfld January 18 2014 at 8:11 AM

And liberals always declare: "What do you have to hide". Truthfully, I am not sure nor are millions of Americans.. With thousands of laws on the books, even judges need to go to libraries to find out what you are guilty of.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
balllightlady January 18 2014 at 7:36 AM

I agree with get "get a warrant" or call NSA to find out what is on your phone. They already do things without you knowing already! Like tap your land line, look in your bank acc. look in all your records for that matter. Alot of covert happens all the time and has been for lets just say 100 years.

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vendelavee January 18 2014 at 7:59 AM

Very simple. If the cops need a search warrant to access the info on your computer, then they need one to access the info on your cell phone.

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1 reply
jcollins1142 vendelavee January 18 2014 at 8:06 AM

But your computer is not on your person like your phone. If your phone is on the table, different story. You can always delete photos and such

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Perry January 18 2014 at 8:07 AM

We all need to write our congressmen and put a stop to this BS. With the battle cry "we must protect you from the terrorists", they successfully enslaved us and stripped our individual freedoms piece by piece. They cannot protect us from all peril without putting us in a baby carriage and force feeding us what they believe is right.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
georgiametals January 18 2014 at 8:19 AM

It's real simple, digital files are the same as paper files, just because it is MORE easier to see / access them stored on computers / phones, does not make it any LESS private than those stored in your home / office. Hail Hitler, they have finally arrived in our Government.

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1 reply
BARRY AND KATHY georgiametals January 18 2014 at 9:31 AM

Her's a novel concept; Stop breaking the law.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
mentalimagry BARRY AND KATHY January 18 2014 at 9:56 AM

Just because you break the law, which I'm not condoning, does not give the people who have sworn to uphold the law, the Constitution being the supreme law of the land, the right to violate your civil liberties just to make their job a little easier...or to find evidence they never would have found without a warrant to search personal belongings, storage, and data storage. Consider you cell phone a bank deposit box for personal information that you just happen to carry with you all the time.

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Mik's $ Toy January 18 2014 at 8:29 AM

Absolutely MUST have a federal warrant signed by a judge who has actually READ the reasons for it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
g999s January 18 2014 at 8:32 AM

Gestapo

Flag Reply +7 rate up
Angel January 18 2014 at 8:35 AM

hell no, u best have a warrant to touch any of my property without my consent

Flag Reply +7 rate up
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