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On June 25, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States held that police must obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest. Eight of the nine Justices joined in the 28 page majority opinion. Justice Alito wrote a concurring opinion. A copy of the Courts opinion may be found here.

In Riley v. California (No. 13-132) and United States v. Wurie (No. 13-212), 573 U.S. ____ (2014), the Court noted that the cellphone technology present today was “nearly inconceivable just a few decades ago” when the current precedent was set by the Court. Riley, slip op. at 9.

In United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973), the Court held that a search incident to an arrest based on probable cause “required no additional justification.” Robinson, 414 U.S. at 235. Today the Supreme Court found that a “search of information on a cell phone bears little resemblance to the type of brief physical search considered in Robinson.” Riley, slip op. at 10. The Court declined to extra the Robinson to cover searches of data on cell phones and instead held that police officers “must generally secure a warrant before conducting a search.” Id.

While the Court noted that their decision “will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime,” they found that “Privacy comes at a cost.”