U.S.S.Ct. – cell phones cannot be searched without a warrant under the “incident to arrest” exception

Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie

In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that police cannot search the cellphones of people who have been arrested without first obtaining a warrant. 

In Riley,  David Riley was pulled over in San Diego in 2009 for having an expired auto registration. The police found loaded guns in his car.  They then made a cursory  inspection of Riley’s  cellphone  and spotted entries they associated with a street gang.  A later, more comprehensive search of the phone led to information  linking Riley to a shooting.  He was subsequently  convicted of attempted murder.   A California appeals court said neither search had required a warrant.

The second case, United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212, involved a search of the call log of the cell phone of  of Brima Wurie who was arrested after being observed participating in the sale of narcotics  in 2007.  He was charged with both gun and drug crimes. The federal appeals court in Boston last year threw out the evidence obtained as a result of t hat search. 

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