News Release

Cellphone Privacy and the Fourth Amendment at the Supreme Court

Washington, DC (April 24, 2014) – Next Tuesday, April 29, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two important cases related to law enforcement searches of cellphones incident to arrest and the Fourth Amendment. The first case, United States v. Wurie, asks if police, without obtaining a warrant, should be allowed to review an arrestee’s cellphone call log. The second case, Riley v. California, focuses on the admissibility of evidence seized through the search of an arrestee’s Smartphone without a warrant.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has long maintained that the Fourth Amendment does not die the moment an individual encounters a police officer or is suspected of a crime. NACDL filed amicus briefs in both of these cases arguing that the police should obtain a warrant before searching the contents of an individual’s cellphone and call log. And in both Riley and Wurie NACDL encourages the Court and the public to recognize the real world loss of privacy that would occur if Fourth Amendment protections and individual privacy interests are not upheld.

NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer said: "Allowing the police to search the contents of a cellphone without obtaining a warrant would be an affront to America’s long history of individual privacy rights. It is akin to granting the police the right to search the most intimately personal details of our lives. The police would have access to the messages we exchange with our family members, the private photos we took last weekend, or even privileged calls to our criminal defense lawyer. A person would need a specially designed app just to keep track of the loss of privacy this would entail."

NACDL’s amicus brief in United States v. Wurie, filed jointly with the National Association of Federal Defenders is available here.

NACDL’s amicus brief in Riley v. California, filed jointly with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School is available here.

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Isaac Kramer, Public Affairs and Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7656 or 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.