Riley v California Case

The Riley v California Case

The Riley v California case is a unique case because of the how evidence was obtained. The police officer who charged Riley got so much information from Riley's phone. The evidence acquired was used against Riley in the court of law. The American constitution – Fourth Amendment requires that for any search to be done there must be a search warrant. Furthermore, under the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment states that a warrantless search is a violation (Posner P. 60).

Search Incident to Arrest and Phone Search

According to the Riley v California case, the Supreme Court ruling was that though the arrest of Riley was right according to the law, searching through his phone was termed as a violation of his constitutional rights. The most basic question is at what point should an officer search to an arrestee? How does an officer estimate the threat in order to conduct an unwarranted search?

In-Depth Analysis of the Case

An in-depth analysis in the Riley v California case shows how Riley got pulled over for expired registration tags then afterward the police officer also found Riley's driving license expired, it was then that the police officer searched the car that he found two handguns hidden in the hood of the car. Upon ballistic testing, it was found that the handguns had been previously used in a gang-related murder less than three weeks before where Riley had been a suspect. Because of the two guns that had been found in Riley's car, the police decided to arrest him and then proceeded to search his phone without a warrant. The warrantless phone search brought forth evidence that indeed Riley was in a gang, that he owned the vehicle he drove on the day of being pulled over and photo evidence on the ongoing gang activities.

Procedural History of the Case

The procedural history of the case leads us to the happenings from Riley's arrest. With the incriminating evidence that had been found on his phone, Riley was charged, but his lawyers quashed the evidence that had been used from his cell phone claiming that his bill of rights had been violated. The trial court rejected the argument and insisted that according to search incident to arrest doctrine none of those rights had been violated, and Riley got convicted. The case was later taken on appeal where the court agreed with the ruling citing a recent case People v Diaz where the California Supreme Court had ruled that according to the search incident to arrest that there are no violations to the Fourth Amendment. However, it was at the same time that the California legislature passed a bill that a warrant of search to portable digital devices was a requirement. On a subsequent hearing, the State tabled the bill, and the court denied the petition though later the Governor vetoed the bill citing that the courts were better placed to explain and interpret matters of the Fourth Amendment law. The California Supreme Court stated that the U.S Supreme court had set precedence in other cases which were of the same nature.

Ruling on Phone Search

The California court used the Diaz case and also included the United States v Edward that despite the how long it took that information from an arrestee in terms of evidence was admissible in a court of law. In the case of Edwards, evidence was collected from his clothes 10 hours after being charged. Therefore, given the two examples the court validated the search on Riley's phone. However, during a Supreme Court review, it emerged that phone nowadays contain so much private information and searching phones without a warrant is not proper as it is equated to searching through private property. The chief justice gave a ruling, and it was noted that a search warrant is needed to examine an arrestee's phone (Gizzi and Craig, Pg.77).

Interpretation of the Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment which is under the bill of rights terms it as a violation when warrantless search is conducted. However, opposing this is the Search Incident to Arrest doctrine which allows a search to facilitate an arrest. Lawyers in the case of Riley v California stated that it was a violation of the fourth amendment, searching and going through Riley's phone. The state, on the other hand, terms it as a rightful search according to the circumstances and furthermore stating that precedence had been set in other similar cases (Kugler and Lior P.1990). In the case of United States v Edwards, it was found out that the search was valid even though evidence collected was taken 10 hours after the arrest. In the case of the People v Diaz, the court stated that the SITA doctrine was well in place and that the police are allowed to conduct a full search on the phone at the time of arrest or even at a later date or a different location

Rationale Behind the Court Decision

The rationale behind the court decision is primarily the fact that an era of the digital technology where a phone can store too much personal data then a warrant is needed to search a cell phone for an arrest. In addition to this is the fact that information stored in the phone. The chief justice pointed it was a constitutional violation to perform a warrantless search given the circumstances (Gizzi and Craig P.77). Six courts favored the warrantless search while three courts did not support such kind of searches. Justice Alito concurred with the judgment and added that digital gadgets are too personal and some could store so much information. However, he noted that the legislature ought to make new laws defining the boundaries based on various digital categories.

Importance of the Case

The importance of this case is an awakener in the Federal judicial systems. In a more critical view, passing judgments because of precedence is not right as every case has its own facts and circumstances. Riley v California is a landmark case where several courts are in favor of the Fourth Amendment while other three courts are not in favor meaning that the judicial system is not as rigid (Sklansky P. 1745). Every court made a decision and with the decision came supporting evidence. The character and quality of our nation have improved because there is justice and however much it took to realize the judgment was a highlight in the judicial history. All in all the Supreme Court gave the final decision which is free and fair given the circumstances. I agree with the ruling, and yes this will shape the future of other cases because new precedence has been set. The Fourth Amendment states that a warrant of search is necessary for any search to take place and that any evidence obtained from a warrantless search is inadmissible in a court of law.

Works Cited

Gizzi, Michael C., and R. Craig Curtis. “The Roberts Court in Flux.” The Fourth Amendment in

Flux: The Roberts Court, Crime Control, and Digital Privacy, University Press of Kansas, 2016, pp. 81–100.

Kugler, Matthew B., and Lior Jacob Strahilevitz. “The Myth of Fourth Amendment

Circularity.” The University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 84, no. 4, 2017, pp. 1747–1812.

Posner, Richard A. “Rethinking the Fourth Amendment.” The Supreme Court Review, vol. 1981,

1981, pp. 49–80.

Sklansky, David A. “The Fourth Amendment and Common Law.” Columbia Law Review, vol.

100, no. 7, 2000, pp. 1739–1814.

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