Key tool for crime or our new virtual home? Supreme Court confronts role of cellphone in US

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WASHINGTON – Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the it’s-everywhere device.

Is it a critical tool for criminals or is it someone’s virtual home?

How the justices answer that question could determine the outcome of the cases being argued Tuesday.

In those cases, a drug dealer and a gang member argue that searches of their cellphones after their arrest violated their right to privacy in the digital age.

The Obama administration and California defend the searches, and say cellphones are no different from anything else a person may be carrying when arrested. Police may search those items without a warrant.

The cases come to the court amid separate challenges to the massive warrantless collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency.

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