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U.S. Supreme Court limits cell phone searches
JEFFERSON COUNTY- by Haley Bull
Many people have cell phones, even smartphones, they rely on and many times it's evidence police officers rely on as well. Now, investigators will have to go through one more step to access that information.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a unanimous vote that when arresting someone, officers must have a search warrant to go through the digital content of a cell phone.
The few ounces of metal, wires and chips make up devices that hold more than just phone numbers. They hold the footprint to a person's life and even criminals.
Port Arthur Police Officer Elie VanHorn flipped through pictures of gang members taking selfies, holding stolen guns and posing with the guns Thursday at the police department.
"It is nothing for them to take pictures of themselves holding guns or committing the crimes. We even recovered a video they recorded of themselves shooting up a house," VanHorn said.
He deals with cell phone forensics and said the devices are critical in solving cases.
"On a criminal standpoint, you can literally draw a line in a 24-hour period of what someone did throughout the entire day," VanHorn said.
"You can search a person incident to arrest, you can search their person, you can search physically search the physical part of the phone, like it said in the opinion, to make sure there's not a knife between the case and the phone itself, but you cannot search the contents of what is on that phone," Attorney David Barlow said.
Obtaining a search warrant is a procedure Port Arthur police already follow.
"It is not that time consuming. It protects the case, the integrity of the case, it can protect the victim," VanHorn said.
You can read the full ruling from the United States Supreme Court here: Riley v. California