Supreme Court rules police need warrant to search cellphones

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Whether on TV news or in a crime drama, chances are you’ve probably seen police empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find.

But in a strong defense of digital age privacy, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled police may not search the cellphone of people they arrest without getting a warrant first.

Several people in downtown Memphis Wednesday, including  Don Towner, weighed in on the ruling.

“I say it’s a good thing anytime police need authorization to search somebody,” Towner said.

Anthony Miller supports the ruling.

“I like it because even though they have the Information of Freedom Act that doesn’t give government entities the right to violate privacy,” Miller said.

But Gloria Talley she’s behind whatever it takes to get criminals off the streets.

“It all depends on the crime. However, it’s whatever it takes to catch the criminal., Talley said.

The justices say cellphones are powerful devices unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest.

But could the ruling hamper the way Mid-South law enforcement does it job?

Chip Washington is the public information officer with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“From our perspective it won’t affect us because we use search warrants whenever we need to look over cellphones or anything like that. So, it really won’t affect us negatively one way or another,” Washington said.

Using a cellphone to video a crime scene recently became an issue in Memphis. So much so that Memphis police created a new policy to stop officers from demanding citizens stop recording them while on scenes.

It’s why some in law enforcement say technology now means being even more mindful of the rights of others when doing your job.

“What it does is put a greater spotlight on law enforcement. I think it brings forth an awareness or should for any law enforcement agency, in particular on the scene, on how to do your job and understand folks are watching every move that you make,” Washington said.

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