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Cellphone ruling not a problem, area police say

By RYAN DUNN
STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Supreme Court decision preventing police officers from searching cellphones after an arrest, unless they first obtain a warrant, will likely have little impact on the area.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that people who are arrested do not lose all of their Fourth Amendment rights that restrict unreasonable search and seizure.

Officials with both the Findlay Police Department and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office said they already obtain a warrant to look through phones when a suspect does not consent, as the high court mandated Wednesday.

“Even before this, we would ask for consent,” said Findlay Police Lt. John Dunbar.

Police typically use information stored in phones in drug, theft, and pornography case investigations, Dunbar said.

It’s unlikely this ruling will affect evidence in pending cases because officers already were seeking warrants, Dunbar said.

But Dunbar said he was grateful the court issued a clearer set of rules.

“Any time the Supreme Court can establish guidelines, for law enforcement and the public at large, it’s a benefit for everybody,” Dunbar said.

Sheriff Michael Heldman said his investigators’ protocol also requires speaking with prosecutors to first obtain a warrant.

Roberts noted in the high court’s opinion that more than 90 percent of adult Americans own a cellphone.

Before the digital age, people did not carry such a vast collection of personal information with them, he wrote.

Referring to a pocket-size computer as a “cellphone” is even misleading, according to Roberts.

“They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers,” Roberts wrote.

Law enforcement officers may physically check a phone for weapons, Roberts wrote. And warrantless searches of a cellphone are still permitted when the urgency to do so can be justified, the court ruled.

Dunn: 419-427-8417
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Twitter: @CourierRyan

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