United States Supreme Court Cases Have Significant Impact on Criminal Cases Involving the Search and Seizure of Cell Phones, IPADs and Other Tablets

Posted by Michael Zarrella | Aug 07, 2014 | 0 Comments

    It has long been held by the United States Supreme Court that the property on a person at the time of arrest may be searched by law enforcement in order to ensure the safety of the public and law enforcement by allowing for both the search for weapons and the securing of weapons in addition to preventing the concealment or destruction of evidence.  It is well settled by the Court that an individual's expectation of privacy diminishes considerably after an arrest.
    In the recent cases of Riley v. California and US v. Wurie, the United States Supreme Court was faced with considering Fourth Amendment protections in light of the pervasiveness of the cell phone in modern society and the challenges the new technology of a cell phone brings to the guidelines for searches and seizures by law enforcement in criminal arrests.  In both cases, the issue centered around the requirement of the police to obtain a warrant to search the information contained on a cell phone subsequent to the seizure of the cell phone. In its decision, the Court distinguished between the physical nature of a cell phone and thereby obtaining the cell phone as part of a search of an individual and the search of the digital information that the physical phone contains.  The Court clearly found that the police can not search the information contained on an arrestees' cell phone without first obtaining a warrant.   Justice Roberts wrote that "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple -get a warrant." However, the US Supreme Court acknowledged that the exceptions to warrants based upon exigent circumstances still exist and can be applied when searching information on cell phones. 
    These decisions have been applauded by criminal defense attorney's and privacy rights proponents.  Clearly, the impact of these decisions goes far beyond cell phones and can be applied to tablets and laptops and marks an acknowledgement by the Court that we have entered a new digital age and that a warrantless search of digital information triggers immense privacy issues as compared to a warrantless search of a physical object.  These decisions are a victory for privacy advocates and bring privacy rights into the 21st century.
  If you have recently been arrested for a crime and had a cell phone, IPad or other tablet seized, it is important that you call a Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer immediately.  Make sure whichever lawyer you hire is familiar with these recent criminal United States Supreme Court decisions and their application to your criminal case.
    For more information regarding search and seizure and criminal defense, please view my websites at or

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