Supreme Court to Hear Case on Whether Police Can Search Cell Phones After an Arrrest

The U.S Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday April 29th regarding the Constitutionality of searching the suspects’s phone after an arrest.  The arguments stems from two cases where police officers searched the suspect’s cell phone after an arrest.  The information they found was later used to charge the suspect with additional crimes. The key question is whether police can search a suspect’s cell phone after an arrest.

The first case is Riley v. California.  David Leon Riley was  arrested in August 2, 2009 after a traffic stop.  The stop resulted in the discovery of a loaded firearms in his car.  The officers then seized Mr. Riley’s cell phone and examined his photos, messages, and videos.  The information from this examination helped officers charge Riley with an unrelated shooting that took place prior to the arrest.  Riley sought to suppress the evidence because it violated the fourth amendment right to privacy.  The trial court denied Riley’s request and he was convicted at trial.  On appeal, the Court cited that the “search-incident-to-arrest” doctrine permitted the officers to search Riley’s cell phone whenever a phone is found near the suspect a the time of arrest.

The second case is U.S v. Wurie.  Brima Wurie was arrested in 2007 for a drug transaction in his car in Massachusetts.  Wurie was at the police station when officers seized two cell phones in his possession.  The officer’s examined the phone call logs and also saw a picture of a woman and baby.  Police used the information on the phone to locate Wurie’s house and gather evidence.  Wurie was subsequently convicted of the felony drug charges.  His attorney appealed and sought to suppress the evidence taken from the cell phones.  The State’s Attorney argued that the “search-incident-to-arrest” doctrine permitted the officers to search his cell phone.  The Massachusetts Court of Appeals found that warrantless searches of cellphones are categorically unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and do not fall within the “search-incident-to-arrest” exception.

Cell phones are ubiquitous in today’s society. Most cell phones have very private information from family pictures, intimate conversations, private videos, etc..  The U.S Supreme Court decision will set the foundation for the future of cell phone privacy.  This decision is important because it will dictate the level of privacy regarding cell phones. Will cell phones be given privacy protection similar to your home?  Follow our blog to get up to date information regarding this landmark case on cell phone privacy.

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