Cell Phone Search Bill Moves Forward - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Cell Phone Search Bill Moves Forward

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Bay County, Fla. -

During a criminal investigation, law enforcement uses various techniques to obtain information, scanning through a suspect's cellphone is just one of them. But in Tallahassee, lawmakers are pushing through a bill that would require them to obtain a warrant before doing so.

Electronic devices can sometimes fill in the missing pieces of an investigation, but authorities argue if they have to wait for a warrant, those links may be gone forever.

On Wednesday, House Bill 797 continued to zip up the approval ladder. The bill's supporter says police should be issued warrants before they go digging through someone's cell phone.

"I don't have anything to hide but at the same time, I do want to keep my privacy," Scott Roberts said.

 "I understand the purpose but I do think a warrant is necessary," Crystal McNeal said.

But in cases like that of Mark Griffis, a 41 year old man who drove to Bay County to solicit a minor for sex, deputies say obtaining his cellphone was key. Griffis began a text and email conversation with a person through a Craig's List ad and the conversation didn't end when the person identified herself as a 14-year-old girl.

In addition to obtaining warrants, the bill would require police to get a court to sign off on informational tracking of an electronic device for investigative purposes. The only exceptions apply to certain circumstances, included are scenarios related to national security and missing children.