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SCOTUS & the Cellphone Case: Implications for Colorado Charges

Cellphone Searches ColoradoThe Supreme Court of the United States,
or SCOTUS, recently held that police need a warrant to conduct a search on a cellphone. What does this mean for criminal charges in Colorado?

The Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, recently issued a holding on a case involving the search of a cellphone. The case dealt with the question of privacy and the search of cellphones. Ultimately, the justices held that in order to search a cellphone, officers must get a warrant.

The holding will have broad implications for criminal charges throughout the country, including here in Colorado.

More on the Supreme Court Case

The case behind the holding was a bit of a mash-up involving two separate cases, Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie. In Riley, a man was arrested based on evidence found on his cellphone after an arrest. The police searched his cellphone immediately following a traffic stop. The traffic stop led to an arrest for operating the car with an expired registration. The police did not receive a warrant to conduct the cellphone search, but argued the search of the phone was allowed under an exception since it was conducted immediately following the arrest. The police found evidence of Riley's connection to a crime on the phone, which supported his conviction of attempted murder and assault crimes.

The facts in Wurie's case are slightly different. He was arrested for suspicion of dealing drugs. While at the police department his cellphone rang. Officers opened the phone, it was an older style flip phone, and noticed the number on the screen attempting to reach Wurie belonged to a home in South Boston. The home had recently been part of a drug bust. This, combined with call log details and other information on the phone, aided the police in convicting Wurie for a variety of drug crimes.

The issue was whether or not police were allowed to conduct these searches without a warrant. Ultimately, the Supreme Court held in favor of privacy. As a result, evidence gathered from a cellphone without receiving a warrant is generally not admissible in court.

How the Holding Impacts Criminal Charges in Colorado
Holdings issued by SCOTUS are essentially the law of the land. This means the holding will impact laws in every state. Thus, enforcement officers in Colorado will generally be held accountable to these new expectations.

What does this mean? This means a cop that pulls you over for a traffic violation, finds reason to arrest you and then decides to search your phone for additional evidence has likely violated proper procedures. Any confiscated evidence from the cellphone will likely be thrown out. This could lead to the reduction or dismissal of the criminal charges.

This is just one way a criminal defense attorney can build a case to reduce or dismiss criminal charges. If you are charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options and help better ensure your legal rights are protected.