BOISE -- The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that law enforcement cannot search cell phones and smart phones without a warrant during arrests.
The ruling was based on a case from Massachusetts and another case from California. A California man named David Riley was stopped for a traffic violation, which eventually led to his arrest on weapons charges. After the arrest, police took a look at his smart phone and found information connecting Riley to gang activity.
Cell phones are ubiquitous in our society, and in recent years have become an investigative tool for law enforcement. After the Supreme Court ruling on Riley v. California, local law enforcement in the Treasure Valley are talking about how this will affect them.
The rights of the individual are paramount, even though some of these cell phones might not have a password protection or anything like that, said Idaho State Police Corporal Chris Cottrell. They (SCOTUS) are making a statement that there is a high expectation of privacy there, and you just can't search it willy-nilly.
Cottrell has been with the Idaho State Police for almost a decade. He's seen technology change, and an accompanying change in the way police investigate crimes.
Just about everybody's carrying a cell phone these days, and not just that, but you've got laptop computers and other technology that are very readily available to a lot of people, Cottrell said.
ISP is already tackling cell phone privacy issues as they enforce the texting and driving ban: Police can't look at a person's phone without their permission. However, that is not the main instance in which they would want to see a suspect's phone.
As far as the cases that we would be interested in, for the most part, or by-in-large, would be criminal cases, a large portion of which are drug cases, said Cottrell. Oftentimes criminals will have ledgers or other sheets located on their cell phones, as well as text messages and other things that might help support the case.
Cottrell said they already work closely with prosecutors to get warrants to look at people's phones, and they'll be doing it more with the new ruling.
KTVB talked off camera with a few other law enforcement agencies, and most of them said they are still figuring out exactly how to move forward in light of this ruling.