Local reaction to warrantless phone searches

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – A new Supreme Court case has many questioning if police have the right to search a cell phone without a warrant, after a person has been arrested. 22News spoke with residents here in western Massachusetts about their feelings on privacy.

Whether you’re old or young, for many of us, cell phones are an essential part of our everyday lives, and carry a lot of our information.

So if you get arrested, do police have the right to search your phone on the spot?

“Just because I’m arrested doesn’t mean I’ve done something wrong,” said Darnel Barnes of Deerfield. “What right do they have to say just because you’re arrested I’m going to search through your stuff?”

The question comes after a case where a gang member and a drug dealer from California argued the search of their cell phones after their arrests violated their right to privacy.

The Obama Administration defends the warrantless search of cell phones. They say cell phones are no different than any other item a person might be carrying when they’re arrested. Legally police do have the right to search those items without a warrant.

Some western Massachusetts residents agree with the Obama Administration. But others say searching cell phones without a warrant infringes on our Fourth Amendment right, which states police generally need a warrant before they conduct a search, and that warrant must be based on evidence that clearly shows a crime has been committed.

Robert Dunn said, “To go that route, right off the bat, I think it’s an invasion of privacy before they, the police, have sufficient evidence that this person can be indicted.”

The cases in California come amid separate legal challenges to the National Security Agency’s massive warrantless collection of telephone records.

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