CA8: Denying any knowledge of a car or its contents is abandonment of a cell phone found inside it; cell phones subject to abandonment

Defendant was believed connected to a shooting involving a Buick. He was taken back to the Buick after arrest, and he denied all knowledge of the Buick. Inside was found a cell phone that the police seized and obtained a warrant for, and pictures were found of defendant with a firearm similar to the one used in the shooting. He abandoned the cell phone by disclaiming any interest in the Buick. The validity of the search warrant is thus moot. The court rejects the argument that cell phones can’t be abandoned. United States v. Crumble, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 14 (8th Cir. Jan. 2, 2018):

Crumble urges this Court to categorically deny application of the abandonment doctrine to cell phones. We decline to do so. Crumble points to Riley v. California, where the Supreme Court held that the search incident to arrest exception does not apply to cell phone searches, in part because cell phones hold “the privacies of life.” 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2494-95, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, Riley’s holding is limited to cell phones seized incident to arrest. Id. at 2495. Riley was explicit that “other case-specific exceptions may still justify a warrantless search of a particular phone.” Id. at 2494. Other courts have found abandonment to be one such exception. See, e.g., United States v. Quashie, 162 F. Supp. 3d 135, 141-42 (E.D.N.Y. 2016) (finding Riley does not eliminate abandonment exception for cell phones).

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