San Diego Gang Member's Case Focus of US Supreme Court Ruling on Cell Phone Searches

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled unanimously on June 25, 2014 that police acted improperly when they seized David Riley's smartphone and discovered evidence linking him to a gang and a shooting. David Riley, a 19 year-old member of San Diego's Linkoln Park gang, was arrested in August 2009 on suspicion of shooting a rival gang member. SCOTUS ruled that a search warrant was needed prior to police examing Riley's cell phone and obtaining any evidence connecting him to the gang and the shooting.

The decision does not free Riley from prison, but it does allow his attorneys to seek a new trial based on the fact that some of the evidence in his case was illegally obtained. A search warrant should have been obtained prior to police going through his cell phone.

Although the decision may not have an impact on cases that are already finalized (whether or not this will apply retroactively remains to be seen), it will clearly apply to those defendants whose cases are still pending in court. From now on, police will have to obtain search warrants prior to searching through telephones in order to gather evidence.

This ruling is a major victory for privacy rights! Any case involving cell phones and police searches must now be scrutinized to ensure police complied with the law prior to discovering evidence of a crime.