The Founding Fathers will meet the selfie generation Tuesday when the Supreme Court hears the case of a California man incriminated by his smartphone, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Loaded with pictures, some of them imprudent, David Leon Riley's Samsung Instinct was searched by police in 2009 without a warrant. He was arrested. Now the justices must fit data-packed smartphones into the contours of the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The outcome will clarify rules that were written long before phones wised up. Riley’s case will be heard along with a separate flip-phone search challenge filed by a Boston-area native named Brima Wurie. The cases pose potentially far-reaching consequences for police and phone users alike. Privacy advocates fear that a ruling against Riley and Wurie would render vulnerable the secrets of the 90 percent of U.S. adults who own cellphones, a growing number of which are outfitted like the various iPhone, Samsung or Android models. Law enforcement officials fear they might lose an invaluable investigative tool. “A photograph, short video, letter, list of addresses or other material that could be properly seized from an arrestee's pocket in paper form is not imbued with special First and Fourth Amendment protection simply because it is digitized and carried on a cellphone,” the California Attorney General's Office says.