News: The United Stated Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Cell Phone Searches are Illegal
On June 25, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Riley v. California. This case raised the issue of whether police officers could search an individual’s cell phone after an arrest without first obtaining a warrant. The Supreme Court with its unanimous decision increased the protection of the privacy of individuals arrested by police when it decided that police officers, absent exigent circumstances, are not allowed to search the information on a cell phone without first obtaining a search warrant. The Supreme Court Justices point out in their opinion that the search through data contained on a cell phone is a much more invasive intrusion in to the individual’s privacy than a search of the person as part of the arrest would be. In balancing the need for police to address certain safety and evidence concerns against the protection provided by the Forth Amendment to the United Stated Constitution, the Court found that the privacy concerns outweigh, and no searches of the kind would be allowed.
The court relied heavily on the case of Chimel v. California where they opined that a search incident to arrest is allowed only to the extent necessary to prevent an individual from gaining access to a weapon or evidence that could be destroyed. Under the rationale advanced in Chimel, a warrantless search of a cell phone incident to arrest is invalid as it does not serve the purpose of protecting officer safety or preventing the destruction of evidence. It is important to note that the decision does not prevent the search of cell phones absolutely. Law enforcement officials may still search cell phones if exigent circumstances exist or if they first obtain a warrant from a neutral magistrate.
If you were arrested by law enforcement in Delaware and your cell phone was searched as part of the arrest without a search warrant, contact the Delaware criminal defense attorneys at Tunnell & Raysor, P.A.