Cell phone warrant ruling to have little effect in Las Vegas - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Cell phone warrant ruling to have little effect in Las Vegas

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A landmark decision by the Supreme Court regarding technology and privacy was announced on Wednesday.

In a unanimous 9-0 vote, the high court ruled police must obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone.

Chief Justice John Roberts writing, in part, after the vote, "...our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple - get a warrant."

"This case had a lot of gravity as far as limiting police power," said retired Metro police lieutenant and author Randy Sutton.

In the past, police may have searched cell phones after an arrest, and without consent, looking for evidence.

"They could basically go on a fishing expedition and look through your telephone," Sutton said.

Now all information on your cell phone is protected, until a search warrant is obtained.

"It's dragging law enforcement kicking and screaming into the 21st century," Sutton said. 

A Metro public information officer told FOX5 via telephone Wednesday the ruling won't do much to change its officers' day-to-day protocols. It is regular practice by Metro to obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone.

"In my experience, Metro really doesn't search those phones without a warrant," said criminal defense attorney Lester Paredes of the Las Vegas Defense Group.

Paredes, also a former public defender, said searching a cell phone hasn't been an issue for him in over 1,000 cases in Las Vegas.

"A nine-nothing decision is something everyone should take a glance at. The Supreme Court is trying to tell us something. Privacy rights matter and just because they're digital privacy rights they're no less protected by the Fourth Amendment," said Paredes.

The only way police can get around the ruling is if you give consent to search.

"If I ask you, 'Can I look in your cell phone?' And you give consent, that is lawful," Sutton said.

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