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Warrantless Cell Phone Search

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Once a person is arrested, the police are allowed to search you for weapons or contraband without a warrant. In more recent times, there has been a question of whether the police may search a cell-phone without a warrant, where it is found during the search for weapons.

In Riley v. California, the police searched the defendant’s cell-phone without a warrant after he was lawfully arrested. The defendant had been pulled over for expired tags, and during the stop, the police found weapons in the car. The defendant was arrested, and the police searched defendant’s smart-phone, which linked him to a shooting. The evidence found in the phone led to an attempted murder conviction.

The California appeals court found that the evidence used at defendant’s trial was allowed because no warrant was required. Because defendant was lawfully arrested, the search was lawful. Defendant’s lawyers argued that a cell-phone is able to store an infinite amount of information, and is like a computer. Why should a cell-phone be treated differently than a computer?

The United States Supreme Court will decide whether a warrant was required in order to search the cell-phone. If a warrant was required, then the search violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. If no warrant was required, then police may soon be able to search your cell-phone should you find yourself arrested.

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