Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

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Posts made in July, 2014

By on Jul 19, 2014 in Civil Rights, Constitution, Court, Criminal, DUI, Fourth Amendment, Police | 0 comments

As I’ve written before, a part of my practice is staying on top of new cases that could affect my clients. The landscape for criminal defense is constantly shifting, and clients need an attorney who can stay on top of relevant developments in the field. Today’s post concerns two recent cases in search and seizure jurisprudence. One case is a step forward for citizen protections and the other goes backwards. The first case comes from the United States Supreme Court: Riley v. California. Riley considers the length to which police can go when searching cell phones after an arrest. Riley involves two defendants in two different cases, but the issue for both was the same. In each case a defendant was validly arrested. As a part of that arrest, police seized the cell phones on the defendant. For one of the defendants, who owned a smartphone, the police accessed the data directly. Specifically, the police went through the contact list looking for potential gang members, as well as looking through photographs and video for incriminating media. For the other defendant, who owned a flip phone, while he was in custody the phone began receiving calls. The police opened the phone and used the data to find the defendant’s house. At the house they obtained a warrant and found lots of drugs. Both defendants were convicted and appealed, arguing the search of their phones violated their Fourth Amendment rights. The Court agreed and reversed the convictions for both. The Court began by noting that warrants are required whenever the government, i.e. the police, search a person or their property. Here there were two searches: the first one was the frisk of the defendants when they were arrested and when the phones were retrieved. The second search was when the phones were actually accessed for its data. The Court upheld the first search. The Court noted it was well-settled that when a person was validly arrested, the police may conduct a search incident to that arrest without a warrant. This search is generally for officer safety, i.e. to search for weapons on the person. But if the person has something incriminating on them, e.g. drugs, those are validly seized during that search...

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