A recent supreme court ruling has changed the way law enforcement handles electronic devices. On June 25, the court ruled that police may not search a smartphone or similar device without a warrant from a judge.
The reasoning behind the change is advancing technology. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of a unanimous court that digital devices have transformed the way people live which is why and privacy rights need to evolve alongside.
In 1973 the "Search Incident to Arrest" rule was implemented. The rule allowed police to protect themselves by finding weapons. Police were also free to collect evidence, such as drugs, stolen goods or papers that might lead to other suspects.
But now, in the era of the smartphone, the court ruled that a cell phone is more than just a phone. Phones are now a “mini computer" containing photographs, locations and more.
Lt. Rocky Harpham of Anderson Police Department said the new change makes their job a little harder when it comes to gathering evidence.
"Their friend can go and get rid of all the evidence whenever it might be or whether it be at their house or in a motel,” said Lt. Harpham. “They can send someone to remove all that evidence, that delay is going to potentially cause us to lose evidence or lose data that's gonna get us to further other crimes.”
Shasta County Senior Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Hanna agrees.
“It will add some time to the process because law enforcement offices in the field will have to write search warrants and submit it to the DA's office for a DA to review it and then it will have to be signed off by a judge,” said Hanna. “ I wouldn't say it's making it harder, obviously we have to follow the law, but it does add steps that weren't there before.”