Crime & Courts

High court ruling has restricted CMPD cell phone searches

Three months after a Supreme Court ruling against warrantless cellphone searches, a CMPD detective said he supports the decision but that it has made investigations more difficult.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Brent Foushee, a 26-year veteran of the department, said that prior to the ruling, investigators could obtain cellphone information without warrants in connection with arrests.

But the court’s June decision “turned this on its head,” Foushee told an audience Wednesday at UNC Charlotte’s Constitution Day, which this year focused on digital evidence and the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections.

“I agree with it in an academic way,” Foushee said. “But yes, it is a nuisance. It has made us work harder.”

Foushee, a vice detective, has also served as an adjunct faculty member in UNCC’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department. Joining him on a panel that fielded student questions was Charlotte School of Law professor Scott Broyles, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Foushee said that in his cases, people in custody consent to having their cellphones searched about half the time, which requires no warrant.

The Supreme Court in April heard arguments in two cases but issued one decision. Justices said searching a cellphone is unlike searching someone’s pockets because of the vast amount of private digital data contained in the devices, sometimes dating back years.

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