Warrantless Cell Phone Access Discussed in Denver
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- State lawmakers came together on Tuesday to discuss a bill that would make it legal for authorities to access your cell phone without a warrant.
They must have probable cause during an emergency in order to search your phone, but not much else.
Warrantless cell phone searches have become a new privacy battle, and those NewsChannel 5 spoke with say something like this could lead to other invasions of privacy.
“This isn’t a place where the legislature needs to get involved,” said Ed Nugent, lawyer. “What we are talking about is constitutional law. That is either done by constitutional amendment or letting things work through the courts.”
Nugent says when you start talking about public safety and an erosion of constructional rights you’re putting yourself in a dangerous position.
“The fourth amendment says the police have to have a warrant to search your house, search your papers and your cell phone, would be very much like searching your papers,” said Nugent.
The bill would allow authorities to get access to communications or call locations without a court order.
The possible new law has some area residents concerned.
“They can come up with any excuse to say, ‘Well I have probable cause,’ and I think it’s a slippery slope there,” said Jo Ellen Foutz, Grand Junction resident.
“We should be careful and thoughtful about when we pass the law and decide whether it’s really worth the degree of freedom that it is going to cost,” said Ray Lashley, Grand Junction resident.
For Nugent, he believes this new ruling would leave the decisions making up to the police and not the legal system.
“We have to have balances on power,” said Nugent. “We have to have checks on power and if we give the police all the power, then we have taken away the checks that go along with that and that's not a good thing.”
This proposal has backers from both parties and officials say, will likely raise opposition from those same groups.
Under this ruling, authorities would have to show that the time required to obtain a search warrant could put a person at risk of injury or death.