Following a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday mandating that law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant to search smartphones, unless someone’s life is in danger, area residents weighed in the issue.
Killeen resident Royal Fennell, 56, said he agreed with the Supreme Court ruling and doesn’t think authorities should be able to look at what is on his phone without a warrant.
“I mean, they’re doing all kinds of stuff now to incriminate themselves with phones,” Fennell said. “If it saves someone’s life and they have a reason, I think it’s OK; but there needs to be something in place to protect personal property if there’s no reason (for police) to look at it.”
The decision also was lauded by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups.
“The court’s opinion is a resounding defense of the Fourth Amendment’s continuing vitality in the digital age,” ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said in a statement.
Killeen resident Vic Cab, 31, said he’s familiar with the Patriot Act, but wasn’t aware of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter. He too, agreed with the decision.
“If there’s no reason, a warrant is needed,” Cab said. “I can see how they may need to look at someone’s phones if lives are at stake and in danger.”
While even the justices themselves acknowledged the ruling would have an impact on police, several local law enforcement agencies already required warrants to search smartphones.
“The Killeen Police Department’s current policy is already consistent with the recent Supreme Court ruling,” said Commander Margaret Young, KPD’s chief of staff. “Absent exigent circumstances, cellphone searches are conducted with consent or through a search warrant containing probably cause for the search.”
Lt. Donnie Adams also said it already was the Bell County Sheriff’s Department’s policy to obtain a warrant to search the content of a cellphone.
“Obtaining a search warrant for (cellphones) is something we’ve been doing long before that ruling came up,” Adams said.
The Copperas Cove Police Department also obtained warrants to search phones prior to Wednesday’s ruling.
“It was something we were already doing, so it’s not going to change much for us,” said Sgt. Martin Ruiz, CCPD spokesman.
The Harker Heights Police Department did not respond to calls for comment.