U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Police Need Warrants for Cell Phone Searches

Criminal defense lawyers and privacy advocates alike are cheering the latest ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) requiring law enforcement agencies to attain a warrant before they search an arrestee's cell phone.

Supreme Court Decision Has Roots in California

The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated two cases involving cell phones when making its verdict. One of the cases, Riley v. California, began in California. San Diego police pulled over driver David Riley for expired tags. A search of the vehicle discovered guns in his truck and he was arrested. Law enforcement officials then searched his smartphone and found evidence linking Riley to gang activity. This evidence was used to later convict him.

Riley argued the search of his cell phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights and attempted to suppress the evidence gathered. The trial court denied his request and the California Court of Appeals upheld the conviction. The case went all the way to SCOTUS, where they agreed with Riley that searching cell phones without a proper warrant was unconstitutional.

SCOTUS Keeping Up With Modern Technology

Law enforcement officials had argued that cell phones, smart or otherwise, should be considered the same as items in a suspect's pocket and are subject to search and seizure. With over 90% of Americans owning cell phones according to a survey conducted by Pew Research, such assumptions can have far-reaching consequences for criminal defendants or anyone else wishing to keep their contents private.

In reality, cell phones have become nothing less than hand-held computers and should be protected as such. Chief Justice John Roberts agreed and wrote the following in his court opinion:

"The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant."

Humphrey & Thompson fights to protect your Fourth Amendment rights!

Our Bakersfield criminal defense lawyer is up-to-date on all judgments pertinent to the Fourth Amendment and the ramifications of such rulings on a case. With more than 25 years of combined experience, our team has the depth of knowledge and tenacity needed to craft the best criminal defense possible to get you acquitted.

Contact us today to learn how our team can fight your charges!