July 21, 2014

United States Supreme Court Ruling Decides Police Need a Warrant For a Cell Phone Search

On June 25th, 2014, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a new law which will require that all police officers must have an actual warrant before they are able to seize and search a suspect’s cell phone. Without a search warrant, any evidence from a cell phone search will be deemed as unauthorized in a court proceeding.

Although the guilty verdict found in the second trial against 19-year-old David Riley back in 2009 may not be a familiar news story for many California residents, the case is now quite relevant as his lawyer hopes to reopen his case in light of the new Supreme Court ruling. Riley was pulled over in San diego by police officers for an expired registration, but once they founds guns in his vehicle, they also seized his phone for an unwarranted cell phone search. The evidence they pulled from his phone connected him to the notorious Lincoln Park gang and suspicion of a shooting which involved a rival gang.

Based on the evidence that was pulled from his smartphone, Riley was ultimately convicted of attempted murder along with other charges and a sentence of fifteen years to life in prison. His sentence stemmed from the current police procedure law at the time of his trial, which stated that the police had the right and ability to search any items on an arrested person, even if the items are in their vehicle.

However, this new ruling by the Supreme Court overturns the principles that Riley was convicted on, deeming cell phones as different from regular items such as clothing or a cigarette pack. The justification behind this comes from the simple fact that in this cellular and digital age, a person’s entire life- credit card accounts, social security numbers, personal life details- are often contained within the one device. Therefore, the Court ruled that it is not fair to continue to allow police the right to pry into the numerous aspects of a person’s life without a warrant. Just as warrants are needed to search a private home, cell phone searches will now require a police warrant to be feasible in court in the name of privacy rights and criminal defendants’ rights.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.