EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology ("CDT") asked the U.S. Supreme Court to crack down on warrantless searches of cell phones, arguing in two cases before the court that changing technology demands new guidelines for when the data on someone’s phone can be accessed and reviewed by investigators.
The amicus briefs were filed in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie. In both cases, after arresting a suspect, law enforcement officers searched the arrestee’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant from a judge. Historically, police have been allowed some searches “incident to arrest” to protect officers’ safety and preserve evidence. However, EFF and CDT argued that once a cell phone has been seized, the police need a search warrant to search the data on the phone.
In June 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the search incident to arrest exception does not extend to a cell phone and that police need to get a search warrant in order to search an arrestee's phone after arrest.