House bill would prohibit officers from confiscating or seizing - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

House bill would prohibit officers from confiscating or seizing cell phones

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A bipartisan effort in the State House seeks to increase protections for you and the personal information you carry in your smart phone.

The small devices may be the key to modern living. After all, many of us have our whole lives stored in them. But former US Attorney Pete Strom says many people are surprised to learn the information on your phone is fair game for police.

"In the Fourth Circuit, it looks like the police can take your phone and look through it without a search warrant," said Strom.

"The worst case scenario is that we do nothing," said Rep. Todd Rutherford. "Law enforcement pulls you over and they want to know if you're texting and driving so they take your phone. Looking at your pictures, looking at your contacts, writing down information."

A bill in the House would prohibit officers from confiscating or seizing a cell phone unless it would "substantially impede" an investigation.

"There's no reason they can't get a search warrant to look at your phone, just like they would a search warrant to get into your house," said Strom.

"We're going to go as far as we can with this to make sure people are protected in South Carolina from the government," said Rutherford. "Because this belief that the government is well-intentioned and is going to do the best to help you out, I don't believe it."

But some say there are certain scenarios where police should be able to check your phone on the spot as a matter of public safety.

As controversial federal government surveillance tactics continue to make headlines, state lawmakers say it's their responsibility to protect South Carolinians however they can.

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