Supreme Court’s cellphone search ruling gets local case dismissed

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-18 11:11:57-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An attorney from West Michigan is celebrating a new kind of victory after the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement can no longer rifle through a suspect’s cellphone without a search warrant.

The win wasn’t a guarantee considering Christopher Wirth’s client was arrested prior to the June 25 ruling.

“The fact that the Supreme Court was considering this issue lined up well for us,” Wirth said. “We had to address the issue of whether or not the Supreme Court affirmation of the 4th amendment right should apply to the February 12 search.”

Wirth's client was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign. Court documents show the man didn't have his driver's license on him, leading to him being placed in handcuffs. That's when police said they found marijuana and began searching his phone. The officer is quoted in the documents as saying, "if you're not trying to sell, what's all this text messaging about?"

Wirth said the text messages were the main pieces of evidence for the prosecution in this case. His client was charged with selling marijuana and being an habitual offender.

"The Kent County prosecutor, was I believe, intending to take text messages that they believed would demonstrate some level of intent and put those text messages in the context of an expert witness who would put those in a law enforcement context and try to demonstrate intent as part of their circumstantial case," Wirth said. "We always took the position...that the text would be very difficult to reach that conclusion from the context of the text messaged."

The case was dismissed on Friday.