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Police now need search warrant to access cell phone information

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Just about all of us have a cell phone. But, not many of us would willingly let someone else, or even the police, search through it.

Now, that should no longer be a concern for residents, after a ruling was passed that now requires police to have a search warrant before accessing data in a cell phone.

It's a decision local civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn says is a small victory for our community. "I've seen a lot of cases and have handled a lot of cases here where police arrest somebody and then use that as a subterfuge to go through their phone and get whatever names they want, whatever numbers they want. That practice is going to come to an end now," Blackburn told us.

Local police say they will abide by the ruling. But also add, all searches done prior to the change always followed strict guidelines. "If the owner of that property, whether it be a house, a car or a phone, we have a form that they fill out, and if they are willing to sign that, we will us it. That is a consent to search and we will go ahead and look through it then," Cpl. Jerry Neufeld explained.

Depending on each individual situation, police say when there is enough probable cause, those searches have been valuable in the past. Especially for drug related crimes in our area. "We know from history that people use their cell phones to make contact with buyers and other sellers," Neufeld said.

And, if the situation calls for it, police say they will continue to search phones, despite the extra work it may add on. "It will throw some additional paperwork into the process. It's not something that we aren't going to be able to get by, we just have to abide by the rules and we are glad to do so," Neufeld told us.

The recent ruling is a step Blackburn says is heading in the right direction. "My experience is that they do this a lot to people, take their cell phones and go through them. It's going to stop that and that's a good thing," he added.

This is one of the first decisions of it's kind that now puts restrictions on technology in our digital age.

Colleen Nelson - NewsChannel 10.
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