Supreme Court hears arguments on warrantless cell phone searches

Supreme Court hears arguments on warrantless cell phone searches

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Tuesday in a pair of cases dealing with warrantless searches of suspects’ cell phones. Riley v. California [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] is a state court case that involves a challenge to searching an arrested individual without a warrant. After being arrested, police examined Riley’s cell phone, which was described as more of a hand-held computer. In granting certiorari, the court amended the question presented to: “Whether evidence admitted at petitioner’s trial was obtained in a search of petitioner’s cell phone that violated petitioner’s Fourth Amendment rights.”

In the federal case, United States v. Wurie [transcript, PDF], the court is examining a similar fact pattern, but the cell phone was an ordinary flip-phone. After arresting Wurie on suspicion of dealing drugs, police inspected his cell phone and retrieved phone numbers that were repeatedly calling his phone. Police traced the calls back to Wurie’s home where they found drugs and guns. Even though these cases address the same constitutional issue, the court chose not to consolidate the cases.