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The Questions Riley v. California Left Unanswered


As many of our Alameda County readers know, jurisdictional boundaries are the reason that a decision made in the court of one state may not impact a case in another state. The exception to this rule is of course the U.S. Supreme Court. Decisions made at this level oftentimes impact cases across the nation in both the criminal and civil courts. And as you may know from reading one of our articles, some cases are more impactful than others.

On June 25, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the now historical case of Riley v. California. The case was important because it asked the court for the first time to consider the requirements of when a search warrant is needed or when this necessity can be waived. The two cases within Riley v. California asked the court to think about the expectation of privacy with a cellphone and whether that was enough to require police to obtain a warrant before executing a search of the device.

Although the court’s decision provided clarification when it came to cellphones and the need to obtain a warrant before searching such digital devices for evidence, the court failed to address how their ruling should affect similar cases involving personal digital devices or even if it would at all. The ruling also raised another question: does the necessity for a warrant to search a cellphone extend to previously decided cases where information had been seized from a cellphone without a warrant?

Not having an answer to this last question may leave some convicts wondering if they have the right to file an appeal or not and what their chances of winning that appeal are. Speaking with a criminal defense lawyer can help answer this question though, which may even lead to a favorable appeal as well. This is something we hope our readers will keep in mind, especially if Riley v. California could apply to their case.