DavidLeon Riley belonged to the Lincoln Park gang of San Diego, California. OnAugust 2, 2009, he and others opened fire on a rival gang member driving pastthem. The shooters then got into Riley’s car and drove away.
On August 22, 2009,the Police pulled Riley over driving a different car. His car had an expiredlicense registration tags. Due to his license being suspended. The police hadthe car impounded. Before a car is impounded, police are required to perform aninventory search to confirm that the vehicle has all its components at the timeof seizure, to protect against liability claims in the future, and to discoverhidden contraband. While search the vehicle, police located two guns andsubsequently arrested Riley for possession of the firearms. Riley had his cellphone in his pocket when he was arrested, so a gang unit detective analyzed fileson his phone.
Seeing that Riley was making gang signs and other gang relatedactivity. Riley was subsequently tied to the shooting on August 2 via ballisticstests, and separate charges were brought to include shooting at an occupiedvehicle, attempted murder, and assault with a semi-auto firearm. Riley was convictedand the California Court of appeal affirmed the judgement. The case was granteda certiorari and was going to be heard by the Supreme Court. Chief Justice JohnRoberts was also going to be involved. They ruled that searching the contentsof a cell phone without a warrant is unconstitutional.
This case related back to Chimel v.Califfornia (1969). In this case, the court ruled that if the police arrestsomeone, they have the right to search the body of the person without a warrantin “the area into which he might reach” in order to protect physical evidenceand for the safety of the officers. This was all good until cell phones cameinto play. Courts were unsure about what to do with cases when it came to thedigital contents search for an arrest.
Lower courts were indifferent on whetheror not the 4th amendment permitted offices to search the contents ofa cell phone without a warrant. Cell phones were becoming very powerful andheld important information. It was time for an in-depth review and a seriousdecision. Riley moved to suppress theevidence that police obtained from his cell phone, but the motion was denied.However, the California Supreme Court used a case called People v. Diaz as a precedentthat granted the approval of a warrantless search of cell phone data incidentto arrest.
Of course, the main issue in thecase was whether or not the government may conduct a warrantless search on acell phone after the arrest. The police officer has to think safety first toprotect himself. He must search the pockets and bags of the person whom theyarrest without the warrant. Cell phones have so much personal information and don’thave a threat as a weapon. Cell phones having all this information was basicallylike having hard evidence right in front of them.
The law officials were afraidthey could lose this information by wiping it or a data encryption when thephone is locked. They decided it was justifiableand necessary to explore and obtain this information on the spot. The United States Supreme Courtdecided that the government must obtain a warrant before conducting a search ofcontents on a cell phone in a arrest.
It would violate the Fourth Amendment tothe United States Constitution. Chief Justice John Roberts reached theconclusion by noting “digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be usedas a weapon to harm an officer.” And the officers are only conducting thissearch for safety in the first place. However, the arresting officers areallowed to examine the physical aspects of the phone but once there are nothreats to safety there is nothing else they can do.
Roberts made an argument that cell phonesdiffer from any other objects as it contains one’s whole life and personalinformation. Our founding fathers fought to protect our personal life and privacy. This is a case that hit hard interms to the 4th amendment and a person’s private information.
Itwas concluded that the arresting officers did draw the line when searching thephone on the spot. It was unconstitutional and a violation of a person’sprivacy. This issue needed to be resolved. There are great arguments for bothsides and a lot of courts were indifferent on the subject.
Some thought thatwhen someone is being arrested for a crime that the arresting officers has allthe rights to search any information he possibly can on the person as it couldhelp a lot with the arrest. On the other side Chief Justice John Roberts knewthat there was a line to be drawn when it came to search physical evidence and someone’swhole life on a cell phone. I agree with Chief Justice John Roberts on thisnotion. A lot of people have their whole entire life information stored ontheir cell phones.
Ranging from locations, contacts, interests, messages,photos and many other things. I think a cell phone goes right in with the 4thamendment and should be treated the same as houses, papers and effects, againstunreasonable searches and seizures. Phones are basically hand-held computersand contain all the safe information of one. I think it is morally right to getthe warrant and do the search before simply invading someone’s privacy on spotlike that.
Very rarely will someone get all the data wiped before you can get awarrant.