U.S. Supreme Court to rule on cellphone privacy

Jan. 17, 2014 at 5:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Friday said it would consider two cases involving police obtaining information from a suspects' cellphone without a warrant.

In both cases -- Riley vs. California and U.S. vs. Wurie -- officers found evidence on the suspects' cellphones, one after a traffic stop and the other during a drug bust. The case has far-ranging implications since the Pew Research Center estimates 56 percent of Americans have a smartphone and more than 90 percent have a cellphone.

David Leon Riley was arrested in San Diego in August 2009 after a routine traffic stop for driving with expired license plates. Police found two guns under the hood of his car and he was charged with carrying concealed weapons.

After his arrest, his Samsung smartphone was searched twice without a warrant, at the scene and at a police station, and a photo on his phone showed him with a red car seen at the site of a shooting. His 15-year sentence for shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, attempted murder and assault with a semi-automatic weapon was upheld by a California appeals court, USA Today said.

The U.S. Supreme Court rewrote the question in Riley vs. California, limiting the case to the constitutionality of evidence used against Riley at trial, SCOTUSblog reported.

In the second case, in 2007 Boston police opened Brima Wurie's flip phone after seeing him make a drug sale and retrieved numbers for several incoming calls.

Police obtained a search warrant for his apartment and Wurie was convicted of crack cocaine and marijuana possession and being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition. He was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, and the conviction was upheld by a federal appeals court.

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