The SCOTUS has entered its ruling in the cases of Riley and United States today. If you read our post from April, or are otherwise familiar with these cases, you know they have to do with whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant before searching the digital contents of an arrestee’s smart phone. In an overwhelming 9-0 vote, the SCOTUS answered with a resounding “yes”.
Despite claims by California and U.S. law enforcement, the SCOTUS found that digital data does not pose any risk to officer safety, and should not be considered justified under a trilogy of previously decided cases dealing with searches incident to arrest. Concerns raised about suspects’ ability to wipe or encrypt data were dismissed as well, and countermeasures such as powering off the phone or the use of Faraday bags until such time as a warrant could be obtained were encouraged. Just as a warrantless romp through the rooms and drawers of a private residence was found unconstitutional in California v. Chimel, so also must be a warrantless romp through the digital nooks and crannies of a smart phone.