How private is your cell phone information in Georgia? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

How private is your cell phone information in Georgia?

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

How private is the information on your cell phone?

The Florida Supreme Court rules police can't search an arrested person's cell phone without a warrant.

But that is not the case in Georgia. Police here can look at any information on the phone of a person they're arresting.

Four Federal appeals courts have ruled that searching a cell phone of a suspect as he's being arrested is legal. But South Georgia investigators tell us it's just smart for cops to wait for a search warrant.

Every person we talked to Monday said they thought the state law was wrong, to allow police to search your cell phone while arresting you.

Chandler Blount said "I wasn't aware of that." Do you think that's right? "No. Because that's your personal information. That's privacy."

Bertha Prather said "No, that's not a good idea. That's invading privacy."

But in Georgia, while police are in the act of arresting you, can search your phone. But they must do it then.

Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander Major Bill Berry said "At the time of the arrest, incident of that arrest, we can still search a person's cell phone. And then we have to be cautious as to how long that arrest is taking place, and when does the timeline stop to get a search warrant."

Attorney Ralph Scoccimaro says the idea goes back to 9-11, fighting terrorism in America, and protecting communities.

Scoccimaro said "In these cases the essence of the Patriot Act is that is state interest outweighs privacy interests of the individual."

Many South Georgians don't like that when it involves their cell phone.

Prather said "That's an invasion of privacy. That's just like putting a camera in your house. That's invasion. If the police can do that, what else can they do?"

But it is Georgia law.

Scoccimaro said "The cell phone that is seized in incident of arrest, if you are in your car, don't expect any privacy out of it."

Major Berry said their standard operating procedure is to not take any chances of depriving someone of their rights.

Berry said "So ours is, when in doubt, get a search warrant."

Something Georgians should be aware of.

Of course, that is a protection of your rights, that most law enforcement will go before a judge and explain cause why they should have a search warrant to search your cell phone.

Florida's Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 Thursday that a warrantless search of the contents of a cell phone is unconstitutional. Georgia's Supreme Court ruled in March 2012 that it is constitutional.

Copyright 2013 WALB.  All rights reserved.  

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