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Search warrants may soon be required for cell phones

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Amarillo, TX - Whether law enforcement can go through your cell phone without a search warrant was being discussed Tuesday in the US Supreme Court.

Here in Texas there has already been discussion and a ruling on the issue...

"Recently the Seventh Court of Appeals in Amarillo, ruled that a search warrant was required to go into the cell phone and get data out of the phone," said Randall County District Attorney James Farren.

"Right now we're going by what came out of the Texas Court of Appeals, which was back in February, which said cell phones are off limits unless you have a search warrant," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said.

But the rules are not set in stone and could change based on the Supreme Court's decision.

"Even if the United States Supreme Court, were to rule that you do not need a search warrant to go into the cell phone, Texas could still require us to do that, because a state can always provide more protection than the United States Constitution requires, when someone is accused of a crime, we just can't provide less protection," said Farren.

As for Thomas, he says requiring a search warrant may take extra time, but can be beneficial in the long run.

"Sometimes it hinders what you're doing, but it also makes it legal, I say legal which is probably the wrong terminology, but it makes sure that we are all on the same page and we're not doing anything that would violate your rights with," Thomas said.

And Farren tells us he believes both the courts will agree on a ruling.

"My guess is, it is likely that both the United States Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals will rule that you will have to get a search warrant to get into a cell phone," said Farren.

Farren also believes eventually two search warrants may be needed, one for the phone itself and then another one for the information inside.
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