United States v Camou: 
Warrantless Cell Phone Searches after Riley v California

Authors: Marco Y. Wong Published date: 15-07-2015 Status: Published

This Comment examines how the Fourth Amendment applies to warrantless cell phone searches in United States v Camou, and questions whether the Ninth Circuit’s ultimate position is desirable. Last year, in Riley v California, the United States Supreme Court held that a police officer should generally get a warrant before searching a defendant’s cell phone incident to her arrest. It explained that cell phone searches may be very intrusive of one’s privacy because of the amount of information that cell phones can contain, as well as their pervasiveness in our lives. The Camou court was challenged with what this insight meant for other exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s traditional warrant requirement. After discussing, in Part I, Camou’s holding that evidence was improperly obtained and had to be excluded, Part II examines Camou’s analyses of the exigency and automobile exceptions to the traditional warrant requirement, and good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule. It suggests, in Part III, that the Supreme Court should reject exigency searches of cell phones altogether, endorse but further elaborate Camou’s holding that cell phones are non-containers under the automobile exception, and reject its understanding of good faith. We should expand defendants’ rights by requiring police to get a warrant in all cell phone searches—since it is quick and easy to do so—but constrain their remedy to include evidence where an officer relies on her own objectively reasonable mistakes or binding court precedent—since the exclusionary rule’s goal is to deter police misconduct. Keywords: Cell phones, Fourth Amendment, Riley v California, exigency, automobiles, good faith, technology.

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Corresponding author. Marco Y. Wong: M.Y.Wong@lse.ac.uk


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