Riley v. California and The Privacy of Your Smartphone

Recently, the Supreme Court heard a case originating out of our very own city of San Diego.  In the case, the defendant was arrested for driving with a suspended license.  Subsequent to his arrest, the digital contents of his smartphone were searched.  This search included text messages, call logs, photos, and videos.  As a result of the search of the phone, the police found a substantial amount of evidence suggesting that the defendant was a Lincoln Park Blood.  In searching through the smartphone’s photos, police also found a picture of a Red Oldsmobile that had been linked to a drive-by shooting committed earlier that year.  As a result, the charged the defendant with violating Penal Code section 246 – Shooting into an Occupied Vehicle and Penal Code section 182.66 – the “Gang Enhancement.”

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether a search of a smartphone without a warrant, pursuant to an arrest, is an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.  On April 29, 2014, the Court heard the arguments of the petitioner, David Leon Riley, and the Respondent, the State of California.  The opinion of the Supreme Court will have a profound affect on the way police conduct post-arrest investigations.  The opinion will also reveal a lot about how the Fourth Amendment will be interpreted in our ever-advancing world of technology.

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