Florida law will not feel strong effects of a major Supreme Court ruling on cell phones and warrants.
"The Florida Supreme Court was out in front on this issue. So this is going to be much bigger in states other than Florida," said Brendan Beery, a Cooley Law School professor.
Unanimously, the federal Supreme Court ruled that cell phones and smart phones cannot generally be searched by law enforcement without a warrant.
The justices acknowledged the need to investigate crimes, but sided strictly with privacy rights. A "very modern view," said Beery.
"Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet or a purse," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. He said the justices understand the decision will impact police ability to fight crime, but that "privacy comes at a cost."
Beery was surprised by the 9-0 ruling.
"You would kind of expect them to say a phone is a phone. What they said in this case is a phone, a cell phone, is not just a phone," he said. Now a cell phone is just as private as what is in a person's home.
There are circumstances where this ruling will not apply. Any emergency or danger to "either a victim of a crime or potential victims … the court would say a warrant is not required," said Berry.
Cases across the country may have to be reviewed with this decision. If there was not a warrant, the cell phone search was unconstitutional.
"You're going to be looking at any conviction that was based on this, what courts would call tainted evidence, would have to be reviewed," said Berry.
Two separate cell phone cases, one in Massachusetts and the other in California, helped stir the controversy with different responses and different lower-court rulings. The common factor -- police searched cell phones without first having a warrant.
The verdict was straight forward Berry said, "If you want to get information out of somebody's cell phone, go get a warrant."