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No-Warrant Cellphone Searches Before Supreme Court

By Christina Hager, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning reporter Christina Hager works as a general assignmen...
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BOSTON (CBS) — A Boston drug case has U.S. Supreme Court Justices discussing whether police should be able to search a suspect’s cell phone without a warrant.

“Today’s cell phones are essentially our electronic homes, and as a matter of constitutional law, you generally need a warrant in order to search a home,” said Jessie Rossman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Boston office. The A.C.L.U. is watching the case closely.

Tuesday, Justices discussed two cell phone search cases, one of them from Boston in 2007. Police arrested Brima Wurie on a drug charge. They found his home phone number on his flip phone, and traced it to his home address in South Boston. When they searched his apartment, they found guns and more drugs. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison, until a judge tossed that conviction on appeal, saying police didn’t have a right to look through his phone.

Now his attorney is in Washington DC, defending that reversal. “The individual retains a right to privacy,” said attorney Judith Mizner outside the Supreme Court.

Former Boston Police Commissioner and WBZ Security Expert Ed Davis said search warrants take time. “Evidence can be destroyed on that phone and there are sometimes cases where people’s lives are in the balance.”

The Justices are considering another case involving cellphone evidence out of California. Rulings on both cases are expected in late June.

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