U.S. Supreme Court

Do cops need warrant to search cellphones seized during arrest? SCOTUS to decide


The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether police need a warrant to search cellphones seized during an arrest.

The court accepted two cases raising the issue, one involving an old flip phone and the other a more modern smartphone, report the Washington Post, the New York Times and SCOTUSblog. At issue is whether different rules apply when cellphones are seized in searches incident to an arrest.

In the flip phone case, police used a reverse directory to find the address of a number listed as “my house” on the flip phone carried by a man arrested on suspicion of selling cocaine outside his car. The suspect, Brima Wurie, received several calls to the “my home” number while in police custody. Police then obtained a warrant to search the man’s home and found drugs and a weapon.

In the other case, police seized a cellphone carried by David Leon Riley when he was arrested for an expired auto registration. Police found guns in Riley’s car and searched his smartphone, finding a photo of him next a car linked to a shooting as well as information indicating he was a member of a street gang. “Police were then able to trace calls,” SCOTUSblog says, “leading to a trail of evidence pointing to Riley as a participant in the shooting.”

Riley was convicted of attempted murder and other charges. The Supreme Court said it would limit its review in Riley’s case to whether evidence admitted at trial from the cellphone search violated Riley’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The cases are Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “SCOTUS should decide if cops need warrant to search cellphones at arrest, two appeals judges say”

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