MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

May 2, 2014

Keep cellphones off limits

United States Supreme Court justices must forbid police from searching cellphones without a warrant — despite precedent allowing cellphones to be treated as wallets.

Law enforcement officers, for decades, legally have seized and searched wallets upon arrest.

The high court is faced with deciding whether the practice should continue to be extended to the search and seizure of cellphones.

Law enforcement can argue that a cellphone is just a very fancy wallet — both could contain information pertinent to criminal activity. A cellphone is kept much like a wallet — on your person and easily discovered during a pat-down search.

It is difficult for law to evolve as quickly as technology.

To say a cellphone is the same thing as a wallet because it contains information and can be found easily on your person is to deny the ocean of technology separating a wallet and a cellphone.

Cellphones contain vastly more information than your wallet.

Cellphones hold information that, in the past, you had to keep inside your home.

Law enforcement could use the ability to search your cellphone to find evidence to use against you in court.

That’s why the U.S. Supreme Court should allow the law to catch up with technology.

Citizens are supposed to protected from unlawful search and seizure by requiring law enforcers to obtain a judge’s permission through a warrant.

Why can’t that protection be carried over to cellphones?

Police can seize the phone during an arrest to ensure the suspect does not erase evidence, but should place it in an evidence bag and seek a search warrant.

If probable cause exists to search the cellphone, a judge will agree and issue a warrant.

If a case is strong enough, a judge will agree.

If the cellphone is an integral part of a criminal enterprise, then having law enforcement seize the phone should be considered prudent.

But that’s where they should stop.

They should not be able to search the phone because evidence is not in plain sight. It is behind a virtual door — like the door to your home.

Law enforcement must be able to convince a judge that searching your cellphone is justified by probable cause.

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