June 25, 2014

SCOTUS reverses California Supreme Court (sorta) on cell phone privacy

A 5-2 California Supreme Court held in People v. Diaz (2011) 51 Cal.4th 84 that police can conduct a warrantless search of an arrested suspect’s cell phone.  Today, the United States Supreme Court came to the opposite conclusion in Riley v. California and a related case.  (Adam Liptak reports in the New York Times.)

As mentioned, the California Legislature passed a bill to overrule Diaz, but Governor Brown vetoed the legislation.  Now the United States Supreme Court has conclusively overruled Diaz, although it did so indirectly.  In Riley, the Court was reviewing a California Court of Appeal decision that followed Diaz.

The Diaz majority consisted of retired Chief Justice George and Justices Kennard, Baxter, Chin (the majority opinion author), and Corrigan.  Justice Werdegar filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Moreno joined.  Today’s Riley decision was unanimous; Chief Justice Roberts wrote the Court’s opinion and Justice Alito concurred separately.

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