Legal Case Brief:
Riley V. CA
Can the police search a cell phone seized during an arrest without a warrant?
It was found the officers must obtain a warrant before being able to search a cell phone.
David Riley was stopped by a police officer for expired tags. Moreover, the officer also found out
that Riley's license had expired. Consequently, Riley's car was impounded according to policy.
Another officer at the scene conducted an inventory search of the vehicle where two concealed
and loaded firearms were found under the car's hood. Items associated with the "Bloods" street
gang were also found. The officer arrested Riley and seized his phone from his person incident
to an arrest, and accessed the information on the device. The officer noticed the verbage used
included the letters "ck" which are typically used by members of the "Blood" gang to refer to
themselves as "Crip Killers". Furthermore, a detective from the gang unit searched the phone at
the station and found photos of a vehicle suspectedly associated with a shooting a few weeks
earlier. Riley was charged in association with the shooting upon this information discovery. Riley
moved to suppress this evidence claiming a search of his phone violated his fourth amendment.
It was argued by the United States and California that the information on a cell phone is
vulnerable to two types of evidence destruction which include; remote wiping, and data
The search of Riley's phone was not justifiable. A warrant is required when searching a phone
because phones contain the "privacies of life" in today's age.