Washington County Law Enforcement Prepared for Supreme Court Cell Phone Ruling


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - Cell phones; they're a digital record of nearly every aspect of our lives.

"There's all kinds of data kept on there as far as text messages, phone records, GPS coordinates, GPS locations," said Lt. Greg Alton with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

And now the United States Supreme Court agrees. On June 25, 2013, a unanimous court ruled that police need a search warrant before checking the contents of your cell phone, making this one of first privacy decisions of the digital age.

"A cell phone not only contains the information that's recorded in its memory bank but it's also a portal. Now with cloud computing where the search could actually be searching information that is else where and not on the person," said Joseph Michael with the Washington County State's Attorney's Office. 

For the past few years, law enforcement agencies in Washington County were already getting search warrants for cell phones. Officials said it was a way to protect any information and evidence they found on cell phones and other electronic devices. 

And that extra step of precaution, protected evidence in the 2013 Washington County arson spree case that investigators needed to convict the eight suspects.

"As far as putting these suspects in the area, text messages, communicating between the suspects in those cases," said Lt. Alton.

Officials said they were prepared for this possible decision but there's a chance more digital privacy rulings could follow.

"A persons data that may be stored online in the cloud so to speak," said Michael. "You know what is the jurisdiction of that, how, how is a search warrant to be served on this area that may not even be physically in the United States? But we all have access to it so that is an evolving area."

It's an electronic evolution reminding us as Justice Roberts said that privacy comes at a cost. 

Investigators with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said they also obtain search warrants for every electronic devices including iPads and iPods, just to be safe for future rulings to come.

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