Get a Warrant: Supreme Court Rules on Cell Phone Searches Incident to Arrest

Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court in Riley v. California, 573 U. S. ____ (2014), held today that the police generally may not, in the absence of a warrant, search digital information on a cellphone seized from an individual under arrest:

“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life’ . . . . 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 to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”

This decision calls into serious question the constitutionality of the NSA’s bulk data collection and will likely impact other areas as well, such as cases involving access to cloud-based data and the third-party doctrine.


In Riley v. California, a Unanimous Supreme Court Sets out Fourth Amendment for Digital AgeSCOTUSblog

The Supreme Court Brings the Fourth Amendment into the 21st Century – Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds in Popular Mechanics

Why the Supreme Court May Finally Protect Your Privacy in the CloudWired