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GM FAM, TODAY'S HOT TOPIC COMES FROM A CASE BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT, " SHOULD ACCESS TO SOMEONE'S CELLPHONE WHO HAS BEEN DETAINED BY POLICE REQUIRE A SEARCH WARRANT?

 

Court seemingly at odds over cell phones and searches

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 5:58 PM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sit for their official photograph on October 8, 2010, at the Supreme Court. Front row, from left: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back row, from left: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sit for their official photograph on October 8, 2010, at the Supreme Court. Front row, from left: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back row, from left: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan.
 
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Today's Supreme Court
John G. Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Anthony M. Kennedy
Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen G. Breyer
Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justices examine issue with potentially far-reaching impact
  • Court again examines legal rights in an evolving area of criminal investigation
  • The question is whether police need a warrant to search data on cell phones during an arrest
(CNN) -- The Supreme Court was at odds Tuesday in trying to balance the level of privacy cell phone owners deserve with legitimate concerns of law enforcement.

In oral arguments, the justices tackled the collision of a fundamental constitutional right with omnipresent technology reshaping personal communications, and in many cases, society.

The issue: when and whether police must obtain a warrant to search data on the cell phone of a person under arrest.

What was clear after two hours was that strict constitutional rules favoring one side or the other were not likely to emerge from a seemingly divided and cautious court again examining Fourth Amendment protections in an evolving area of criminal investigation.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013): The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal over California's Proposition 8 on jurisdictional grounds. The voter-approved ballot measure barring same-sex marriage was not defended by state officials, but rather a private party. This ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume, but left open-ended the legal language of 35 other states barring same-sex marriage. Take a look at other important cases decided by the high court. Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013): The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal over California's Proposition 8 on jurisdictional grounds. The voter-approved ballot measure barring same-sex marriage was not defended by state officials, but rather a private party. This ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume, but left open-ended the legal language of 35 other states barring same-sex marriage. Take a look at other important cases decided by the high court.
 
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Photos: Supreme Court cases that changed America Photos: Supreme Court cases that changed America

Still, potentially far-reaching rulings are expected in June.

The justices offered tough questions to lawyers involved in appeals involving suspects in Massachusetts and California convicted, in part, after phone numbers, text messages, photos and addresses obtained from personal electronic devices linked them to criminal drug and gang activity.

The search cases give the justices a timely opportunity to reenter the public debate over the limits of Americans' privacy rights, with a focus on the ubiquitous cell phone and its vast storage of information and video.

The two criminal cases before the high court present a complex mix of issues to be explored, in the larger context of the popular cell phone and other digital devices. Among the questions:

-- Should law enforcement have near unfettered, warrantless access to possibly incriminating, even embarrassing, digital evidence-- or should exceptions be created?

-- How are searches of cellphones "incident to arrest" different from wallets, purses, briefcases, dairies, compact discs, even vehicle glove compartments?

-- Should other current and future digital devices receive similar legal protections, such as tablets, laptops, separate global positioning systems (GPS) devices, and wearable cameras?

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