Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court


ListPreviousNext


Riley v. California

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 25, 2014
Case #: 13-132
Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-132_8l9c.pdf

Criminal Procedure: Police may not search an arrested individual’s cell phone data without a warrant.

Petitioner Riley was pulled over in 2009 for having an expired auto registration.  Police found loaded guns in Petitioner's car, and after searching Petitioner's cell phone, Petitioner was linked to a gang and charged in connection to a shooting.  Petitioner Riley moved to suppress evidence obtained from his cell phone, but was later convicted of attempted murder.

Petitioner Wurie was arrested in 2007 for participating in a drug sale.  Police seized Petitioner's cell phone and searched its call log.  As a result, police were then led to Petitioner's apartment, where they found drugs, a firearm, and money.  Petitioner Wurie moved to suppress evidence obtained from the search of his apartment.  The District Court denied the motion.  The First Circuit then reversed and vacated the conviction.

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether police may search the digital contents of a cell phone without a warrant.  In an unanimous opinion, the Court held that police may not search an individual's cell phone data without a warrant.  The Court highlighted that cell phone data cannot itself harm an arresting officer.  However, the Court did state that police may examine a cell phone to determine whether they possess any physical threats. Furthermore, an arrestee has a substantial privacy interest in the contents of his or her cell phone.