For decades the law has held that, while a warrant is needed to search a building, police can seize and search items on a person during an arrest without a warrant. But can this premise stand when the phone in one’s pocket can contain more private information than an entire warehouse? In the face of evolving technology, the Supreme Court may soon consider this question.
Two petitions on the issue of searching through phones seized during arrests have been filed at the Supreme Court. The cases are subtly but significantly different. Riley v. California involves the search of a smartphone, while the facts of Wurie v. United States focus on the increasingly outdated traditional “feature phone,” which stores a much narrower range of data. Last week, CDT, along with EFF, filed an amicus brief urging the Court to hear the Riley case and to make it clear that the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine does not allow warrantless searches of cell phones seized during an arrest. Andrew Pincus, a leading Supreme Court advocate, wrote the brief.