Weapon Charges – Riley v CA

The United State Supreme Court issued their decision in Riley v. California.   This case involves the police searching one’s cell phone incident to arrest.   The Supreme Court ruled that the police must have a warrant to search a person’s phone (unless there is some other exception that applies.)

The facts in this case are as follows- Riley was stopped for a traffic violation, which eventually led to him being arrested and charged with weapon charges.   After arrest, an officer seized Riley’s cell phone and accessed information on the phone and noticed terms associated with a street gang.  The information on the phone was given to a detective in the gang unit some two hour’s later.   The detective further examined the phone and found information (videos and photographs) which led to the Riley being charged in connection with a shooting and prosecution sought an enhanced sentence based on Riley’s gang membership.   Riley moved to suppress all evidence that the police gained from his cell phone.  Trial court denied the motion and Riley was convicted.  California Court of Appeals affirmed.

The United States Supreme Court held that the “police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested”.

criminal evidence must be obtained without violating personal rights

The Court states:   “Modern cell phones are not jurist another technological convenience.  With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans “the privacies of life,”  Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886).   The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer tot he question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple- get a warrant.”

Riley v California.