Supreme Court to Address Key Privacy Rights Cases

By Lengell, Sean | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, April 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court to Address Key Privacy Rights Cases


Lengell, Sean, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


The Supreme Court this week will address a pair of cases that will re-examine -- and possibly redefine -- privacy rights in the digital age.

The debate centers on whether police need a warrant to search the cellphones of people they arrest, pitting law enforcement and the federal government against privacy advocates and defense lawyers.

In each of the two cases the justices will address back-to-back Tuesday, criminal defendants were convicted and sentenced to prison partly because police obtained key evidence from their cellphones after a warrantless search.

The Fourth Amendment says that police generally need a warrant before they can conduct a search and that the warrant must be based on "probable cause" evidence that a crime has been committed.

But the Supreme Court has made exceptions when people are arrested, saying 40 years ago that police don't need a warrant to search belongings a suspect is carrying at the time of his or her arrest.

In one of Tuesday's cases, a California state court upheld the conviction of David Leon Riley after San Diego police found evidence on his smartphone that he belonged to a gang and was involved in a gang-related shooting. Prosecutors used video and photographs found on the smartphone to persuade a jury to convict Riley of attempted murder and other charges.

In the other case, from Boston, a federal appeals court said the warrantless search of a cellphone belonging to Brima Wurie violated the Fourth Amendment. …

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