Law enforcement reacts to Supreme Court ruling

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Police, deputies must obtain warrant to search cell phones

With the rapid advancements in technology, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that will affect law enforcement's ability to search a cell phone.

Police and deputies previously could search anyone's cell phone upon arrest without needing permission, but in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement will have to obtain a warrant to access cell phone information.

Dana Kammerlohr, Cassville police chief, said the Cassville Police Department is putting the new process into effect now, but it will not change much from what the department has done in the past.

"We do some phone searches, but this won't have a big effect," she said. "It will just take a little longer to get the process done.

Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff, said his deputies are prepared to abide by the ruling.

"In the past, we didn't have to have a warrant, and now we will have to have a warrant, and we'll follow that guideline," he said. "It won't affect us that much. We do some phone searches, but not too often."

Kammerlohr said Cassville police search about two phones per month, many times for harassment issues.

"Sometimes there's some harassment going on in messages, or there may be Internet crimes against children," she said. "That may be where it hurts, but we'll get it, and it will just take a little longer."

Epperly said in the past year, deputies have searched about three cell phones, and to do so now, they will have to apply for a warrant through the prosecutor's office. One case in which deputies might search a phone is when they believe the suspect has sent messages to others engaging in illegal activities.

"Say someone has a phone on them when they are put in the jail," he said. "They might use that phone to talk to their partners and tell them to hide or get rid of something, so we have to follow up on that."

Kammerlohr said for most of the Cassville Police Department's searches, the suspect gives consent.

"Most of the time, we have gotten consent to search a phone or got a warrant," she said. "But, we don't need a warrant if someone gives consent."

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