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Supreme Court Takes Cases On Cellphone Searches

A U.S. flag is held by a marcher in front of the Supreme Court building. (credit: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. flag is held by a marcher in front of the Supreme Court building. (credit: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDFW/AP) - The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether police need a warrant to search the cellphones of people they have arrested.

Justices said Friday they’ll hear appeals in two cases in which criminal defendants were convicted and sentenced at least in part on the strength of evidence obtained by warrantless searches of their cellphones.

At issue is a 40-year-old high court ruling allowing warrantless searches of items people are carrying when they’re arrested. Lower federal and state courts have differed over whether the ruling should apply to increasingly sophisticated cellphones, including even more advanced smartphones.

“The Federal circuit courts are all over the place,” says Professor Gerald Treece of South Texas College of Law. “What the Supreme Court is doing is going to resolve a split among the Federal circuit courts, and hopefully decide that if you are arrested, or stopped, the court may uphold the ability to take the phone (or other electronic-type device) but they can’t download the information unless they present to a magistrate (obtain a warrant) to get it.”

The cases will be argued in April and decided by late June.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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