CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Opinion holding search-incident-to-arrest exception inapplicable to searches of data on cell phone

Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court in Riley v. California. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

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The Court reached the right result in Riley by refusing to construe Robinson's indefensible automatic authority to rummage to allow much more extensive invasions of privacy. The majority opinion contains two bits of dictum that merit mention. One is anti-4A, the other pro. On page 8 of the slip opinion, the CJ erroneously asserts that Acevedo abrogated Chadwick. Not so. Chadwick said warrants are needed for containers outside cars, and that ruling stands. Acevedo addressed only those containers found inside vehicles. Second, the CJ, on page 23, states that Gant does not allow evidence-gathering-type searches incident to arrest for "past" offenses. Bravo for this appropriately narrow interpretation of Gant. There was reason to fear that this branch of Gant would allow searches of vehicles whenever an offense was of the type that might involve evidence (i.e., for all drugs offenses, whenever committed). Riley endorses a narrower, more limiting interpretation which will at least confine the damage done to the probable cause standard by Gant's alternative search incident doctrine for vehicles.

Posted by: james tomkovicz | Jul 2, 2014 8:28:42 AM

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