Police wait for Supreme Court cellphone ruling

By Amanda Porterfield | aporterfield@wcia.com

Published 05/01 2014 10:57AM

Updated 05/01 2014 11:00AM

NATIONAL -- The Supreme Court is looking at two cases which could change the 4th Amendment. It would give authorities the right to search a suspect's cellphone without a warrant. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield finds out more.

Neither case happened in Illinois, but the Supreme Court's decision could reach into the pockets or purses of Americans all over the U.S. Until recently, cellphones just called. But now, you can learn a lot about a person with the touch of a button.

"Certainly, right now, our cellphones are computers. They can tell hundreds of times the information that I might have right now."

In California and Boston, officers found incriminating pictures on a suspect's phone and used them to file charges. Now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether, like searching your home officers should get a warrant, or if it should be allowed in all cases. The ACLU believes it's a direct violation of the right to privacy.

"There should not be general searches of any sort without a warrant. And, there's certainly no reason not to include cellphones. That could have much more information than you have around the house."

According to Pew Research, at least 90% of all Americans have a cellphone; more than half are smart phones. Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh says, right now, officers here would typically only look inside a cellphone in an emergency.

"If the Supreme Court says you do not need a warrant, it will save police officers the time and effort of preparing an affidavit."

Many believe, if that happens, criminals will just erase the information, but for everyone else...

"It would be a pretty major change for the courts to suddenly say the 4th Amendment doesn't mean what it has for the last 200 years."

The decision isn't expected until June.

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