Riley v. California Paper
Jan. 30th, 2018
In No. 13-132, Riley was stopped by a police officer for the traffic violation.
The police officer used the power to search the information from Riley’s phone
but without a searching warrant. The police officer noticed the sensitive
information which was associated with the street gang on Riley’s phone, then
the police officer took Riley to the police station and he wanted to dig more
on his phone. However, a detective in the police station examined the phone’s
digital content, and he found Riley was in the connection with a shooting
happened a few weeks earlier. After his evidence disclosed, Riley moved to
suppress all evidence, but his request was denied by the trial court. Finally,
Riley was convicted of being a gang member.
In this case, the trial court denied Riley’s motion to suppress all evidence
which the police officer found on his phone. The trial court made this decision
because Riley’s criminal evidence was true, then the court unanimously affirmed
that Riley should be sentenced for his gang membership, but it didn’t consider
if the evidence was collected legally. When Riley’s case was sent to the
California court, it was affirmed as same as the trial court did.
In fact, the state law states the police officer can only search the arrestee’s
body without a search warrant if the arrestee has the potential physical threat
to him. But in Riley’s case, the police officer accessed to Riley’s phone and
searched the personal information on it without a legal search warrant. The
police officer’s search looks like unreasonable because some courts and
jurisprudents think arrestee’s phone can’t be regarded as a physical weapon,
and the information in the phone is the personal privacy, so the police officer
doesn’t have the right to search the deep information on arrestee’s phone.
Also, the police officer’s action violates the arrestee’s privacy.
However, Riley appealed his case to the Supreme Court, and it soon became
popular in the United States because what lower courts and the police officer
did was breaking the Fourth Amendment, which was illegally using and collecting
the evidence from a person. It also broke the digital privacy rule, and it
broke the human rights. After a long discussion, the Supreme Court made the
final decision that allowing Riley to move to suppress the evidence on his cell
phone because all evidence came from a warrantless search. So, all evidence
couldn’t be used in the conviction.
In No. 13-212, Wurie was arrested because the police officer found the criminal
evidence on his cell phone. At the police station, the police officer took
Wurie’s phone and accessed it without Wurie’s permission or a search warrant.
The police officer noticed there were many suspicious in-coming calls on
Wurie’s cell phone; therefore, the police officer traced that number and he
found it was Wurie’s apartment. Later, the police officer secured a search
warrant and searched Wurie’s place. In the legal search, the police officer
found drugs, a firearm, and ammunition in Wurie’s apartment. So, Wurie’s was
convicted by selling drugs and holding firearms. Wurie later moved to suppress
all evidence of the search from his apartment, but the trial court denied his
motion, and he was convicted.
Wurie’s case first went to the District Court, and he was convicted because the
court used all evidence from the warrantless search. Like Riley’s case, the
lower court didn’t fully consider the statement in the Fourth Amendment in
Wurie’s case. The lower court also unanimously affirmed Wurie’s crime and
When Wurie appealed his case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the court
reversed his conviction, and accept his motion to suppress all evidence from
the search in his apartment. Soon, Wurie’s case also became popular because of
the overturning of his conviction. Similarly, Wurie’s case also went to the
Supreme Court like Riley’s did. The Supreme Court affirmed all evidence from
Wurie’s apartment would be counted for Wurie’s criminal behavior because the
evidence was collected illegally. The Supreme Court also ruled the police
officer should have a warrant for a search of a cell phone when someone was
From my perspective, these two cases are identical. Both of cases are about the
conviction by the illegal evidence, and the evidence in both cases comes from a
warrantless search. In the process of both cases, there are many dissenting
opinions from the different courts and different jurisprudents. Some of them
believe the criminal should be sentenced even though the evidence comes from an
illegal way. They believe evidence should be used in the conviction anytime if
the crime is true. But some of them believe the court should deny using the
evidence from the illegal way. Even though the crime is true, the court and the
police officer should find the evidence from a legal method but not use the one
from the illegal method.
For me, I am happy to see the criminal is sentenced, and I want to see the
criminal get the deserved punishment. But I think we should obligate the law in
the above situation. I strongly agree with the Supreme Court’s decision. In my
opinion, the law and the constitution are rules which regulate a person’s
behavior to make sure the whole society is under an order. Although both
criminals commit a crime, we can’t use the illegal evidence to convict them
because it is how the Fourth Amendment rules. We should follow the statement in
the Fourth Amendment and protect it. In both cases, all evidence from the
warrantless search by police officers, but the warrantless search for a cell
phone is identically an illegal search of the digital content for a personal
cell phone. However, what if police officers search an innocent person? A
person who never commit a crime but is forced to search the cell phone. It is
unreasonable! So, I agree with the Supreme Court, and I think the unruled
warrantless search of a cell phone should be avoided because it invades the
privacy of digital content.