Search and Seizure: Cell Phone

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that law enforcement may not search the contents of a cell phone incident to arrest.[1] However, the S.C. Supreme Court has distinguished the contents of a cell phone and the data from a SIM card on a cell phone.[2]



Case Law

U.S. Supreme Court


The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant. Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373, 403, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2495, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014)


S.C. Supreme Court

We conclude searching a SIM card is fundamentally distinct from searching the full contents of an unlocked cell phone, making much of the language in Riley concerning the privacy implications for searching a cell phone inapplicable or, at best, greatly diminished here. State v. Moore, No. 2017-002479, 2020 WL 811715, at *3 (S.C. Feb. 19, 2020)

[1] Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373 (2014) [2] State v. Moore, No. 2017-002479, 2020 WL 811715, at *3 (S.C. Feb. 19, 2020)