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U.S Supreme Court rules warrants for cell phone searches - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

U.S Supreme Court rules warrants for cell phone searches

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FARGO, N.D. -- The U.S. Supreme Court scored a major win Wednesday for civil liberties groups. Now, officers of the law have to get a search warrant to check your phone, not just an arrest. Valley News Team's Christina Craig asked shoppers downtown if they'd hand over their personal phone.

"Can I see your cell phone?", asked Reporter Christina Craig.

"Yeah, okay," said Chris Hemmah.

"Absolutely," said Eugene, another downtown shopper. 

Personal information, emails and private conversations...with technology it's like having a computer at your fingertips. But, it can all be accessed by a swipe or pass code, or even by police. Chris Hemmah of Fargo told us it's a breech of privacy. 

"Since you didn't hesitate to show me your cell phone, if a cop asked to see your cell phone would you hesitate?", asked Craig.

"Oh yeah, no way!", said Hemmah. "The Supreme Court ruling just came down, so they can't see with out a search warrant." 

"Persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" is what the fourth amendment states. Fourth amendment rights previously did not pertain to cell phones, giving police access to all your private information. Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled officers need to obtain a search warrant to go through your phone. 

"I think there's a constant erosion of our civil rights and our privacy," said Hemmah. "We need safeguards in place to protect our privacy. It's eroding everywhere you know, email, text and everything else. Everywhere you go, it's slowly going away bit by bit. So, I think it's a good thing."

Now, police can only confiscate your phone warrant-less if they have probable cause. 

"We can ask the person for consent and if they consent us looking through their phone we can do that," said Sgt. Mark Lykken from the Fargo Police Department. "If we believe there's evidence on their phone we'll seize the phone and apply for a search warrant through the county judges."

And, at that time an officer can write a warrant request to a local judge.

"Then either issue the warrant or deny it," said Jason Loose from the City Prosecutor's Office. "At which time, once that warrants been signed by the judge they can do what they're asking."

That whole process doesn't take much more than 15 minutes. Still those we spoke to, like Hemmah believe it's a step in the right direction to protect your privacy. 

Fargo police told Valley News Live prior to this new ruling, they have been practicing this policy, obtaining a warrant before looking through one's personal cell phone. 

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