The Supreme Court heard argument in two cases related to whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a cell phone. In both cases, the justices seemed reluctant to impose a one-size-fits-all approach—either a prohibition on searches without a warrant or a categorical rule that would allow a search if it fit within a limited scope.
One case, Riley v. California, involves an officer who seized a “smartphone” from a person who was under arrest and began to scroll through its contents at the scene of the arrest. He was looking through text messages and the phone’s contact list. The second case, United States v. Wurie, an officer believed the person arrested had used a cell phone to arrange a drug deal. At the police station, an officer noticed that a “flip” phone was repeatedly receiving calls from a number labeled “my house.” The officer searched through the call log on the phone in order to obtain the home phone number.