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Cell Phone Privacy Protected by Fourth Amendment

4 years 9 months 1 day ago Tuesday, November 07 2017 Nov 7, 2017 November 07, 2017 9:43 PM November 07, 2017 in News

WESLACO - Due to all the personal information we carry on our phones, they now are protected by the Fourth Amendment. That means law enforcement agencies now need a warrant to look through your phone.

Cameron County Attorney and Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2, Pl 2 Jonathan Gracia said the Fourth Amendment, which pertains to illegal searches and seizures, protects your privacy at home, your vehicle and most recently, your cell phone.

"Most individuals keep a lot of private information that they don't want the general public from knowing on their phones," he said, "and the court has extended that right so that information can be protected."

Gracia said a court of appeals made this ruling because too many law enforcement officials were confiscating phones during bookings and looking through them for information that didn't pertain to the case.

Law enforcement officials now must secure a warrant signed by a judge, Gracia said, before they can look through your phone and even then it can only be if it pertains to your arrest or case.

"It's up to the judge if they are going to accept it, but it has to pertain to the arrest or to the ongoing investigation. It can't just be based off of a hunch,” said Gracia.

If a person gives permission for law enforcement to search their home, vehicle or cell phone, the Fourth Amendment goes out the window.

Gracia also said things could change at international checkpoints since the objective there is to secure the nation.

"Ports of entry or airports, you actually have less – your rights are curtailed at those checkpoints," Gracia said. "If you look suspicious for any matter, they could just pull you over to secondary and keep you there until they find you're no longer suspicious."

Gracia said people have rights when it comes to protecting information on their phone and should exercise them.

The time it takes to get a search warrant for a phone, he added, varies depending on the circumstance and judge.

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