Reactions mixed as Supreme Court considers no-warrant cellphone searches

The Supreme Court is looking at legislation that would allow police to search cellphones to collect data on people they arrest without getting a warrant. (4/29/14)

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court is looking at legislation that would allow police to search cellphones to collect data on people they arrest without getting a warrant.

Police say cellphones have become increasingly important as evidence in solving crimes, and commonly seize and search them for personal information such as text messages and photos.

Many believe that because phones should be protected from unreasonable searches because they contain so much personal data.

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"I really wouldn't appreciate someone going through my phone," says Michelle Torpey, of Glen Rock. "So I would not want someone taking my phone, even if it was the police."

Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Brian Metzler says having access to that information could be the difference between convicting and not convicting,

The Supreme Court is considering two cases where cellphone data helped convict a gang member and a drug dealer.  The decision could set a nationwide precedent regarding cellphone searches.  

Metzler says those in law enforcement want to be able to search phones immediately after an arrest, because it can take hours to obtain a warrant from a judge. "As a law enforcement officer, we want everything to move quickly," he says. "Time gives them opportunities to get rid of evidence, then we lose the opportunity to solve the crime."

The court is expected to rule on the issue in June. Right now, it's not clear how it could impact the law in the Garden State.

Currently, New Jersey police departments are required to obtain a warrant to search a cellphone.

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