U.S. Law Week: On The Merits adds a new dimension to U.S. Law Week's
coverage of courts, cases and legal issues. Using both new and
traditional media, we aim to provide visitors with accessible
information on the topics they care about.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
by Tom P. Taylor
The Fourth Amendment protects a person's "papers" and "effects"
from unreasonable searches. But what happens when those
items-normally found in a file cabinet or closet-can all fit on a
phone no bigger than a deck of cards?
And what happens when that phone is in someone's pocket when
they get arrested by police? That's the question facing the U.S.
Supreme Court in a pair of cases set to be argued on Tuesday, April
29-United States v. Wurie and Riley v.
The "search incident to arrest" was a stalwart exception to the
Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement well before D.C. police
officer Richard Jenks arrested and searched Willie Robinson and
found heroin in a crumpled up cigarette pack-perhaps the most
well-known example of the doctrine in action, United States v.
Robinson 414 U.S. 218 (1973).
My, how times have changed. Trade the pack of cigarettes for an
iPhone, loaded with pictures, videos, voice and text messages and
other documents, and the ability to search an arrestee goes from a
limited invasion to the key to a treasure trove of personal
So once again, the court is faced with the possibility that new
technology will force them to reconsider how we think about the
Fourth Amendment. (We're only two terms removed from United
States v. Jones, involving the installation of a GPS tracking
device on a suspect's car.)
Here to talk about the case and the issues facing the justices
is Hugh Kaplan of BBNA's Criminal Law Reporter.
to post a comment.
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