BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the vast majority of Americans cell phones are quite simply a way of life. While many of us grew up pre-cell phone most teenagers never knew life without one. Wednesday's ruling by the United States Supreme Court sends a message to law enforcement. You cannot search through someone's cell phone without a warrant signed by a judge.
It was a ruling welcomed by many, including local defense attorney John Di Giulio.
"What they say here is that the information in a cell phone these days is much greater than searching a house or your business. It might have years of pictures, of notes, personal stuff, and business records, the kinds of things you would ordinarily need a warrant for," says Di Giulio.
Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says he has been watching this case for years and today's ruling poses a problem for lawmen.
"These bad guys know what goes on with cell phones. They know how to wipe their cell phone out so by the time we get a search warrant and get a judge to possibly sign it that phone will probably be wiped out and of no use to us," says Moore.
A search warrant is constitutionally mandated. Police must have probable cause because of the 14th amendment prohibiting illegal search and seizure. Wednesday's ruling puts cell phones in the same category as your own home. The question now is how often a judge will honor a request for a search warrant on a cell phone.
"I think the practical issue is going to be whether judges really scrutinized the affidavits carefully enough and how specific they are in tellling them we want to search this phone for the following you know," says Di Giulio.
But Moore believes that in an emergency situation police could still look at a cell phone to save a life. The law goes into effect immediately.