Court Holds Police May Not Search Cell Phone Without First Obtaining a Warrant After Arrest

United States v. Wurie

The police, after seizing a cell phone from Defendant’s person as part of his lawful arrest, searched the phone’s data without a warrant. Based on information obtained from the cell phone, Defendant was charged with possessing with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine base and with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Defendant unsuccessfully filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the warrantless search of his phone, and the district court subsequently convicted Defendant as charged. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress and vacated his conviction, holding (1) the search in this case exceeded the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment search-incident-to-arrest exception; and (2) because the government did not argue that the search here was justified by any exception to the warrant requirement, Defendant’s motion to suppress must be granted. Remanded.

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Ray Lopez has practiced since 1990, with prior experience as a Hillsborough County assistant State attorney and lawyer for the Tampa Police Department. He handles all criminal charges, from traffic violations and misdemeanors to serious felonies and federal drug charges. He practices in all state and federal courts of the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida, as well as criminal appeals, juvenile court, administrative hearings, and civil forfeiture proceedings.

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