People v. Hughes

Citation506 Mich. 512,958 N.W.2d 98
Decision Date28 December 2020
Docket NumberNo. 158652,158652
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Parties PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kristopher Allen HUGHES, Defendant-Appellant.

506 Mich. 512
958 N.W.2d 98

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Kristopher Allen HUGHES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 158652

Supreme Court of Michigan.

Argued on application for leave to appeal October 7, 2020
Decided December 28, 2020

Jessica R. Cooper, Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney, Thomas R. Grden, Appellate Division Chief, and Joshua J. Miller, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

State Appellate Defender (by Jason R. Eggert and Lindsay Ponce) for Kristopher A. Hughes.

Friedman Legal Solutions, PLLC (by Stuart G. Friedman, Southfield) for Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, amicus curiae.

Daniel S. Korobkin for American Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, amici curiae.



Markman, J.

958 N.W.2d 104
506 Mich. 516

The issue presented here is whether, when the police obtain a warrant to search digital data from a cell phone for evidence of a crime, they are later permitted to review that same data for evidence of another crime without obtaining a second warrant. We conclude--in light of the particularity requirement embodied in the Fourth Amendment and given meaning in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Riley v. California , 573 U.S. 373, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014) (addressing the "sensitive" nature of cell-phone data)--that a search of digital cell-phone data pursuant to a warrant must be reasonably directed at obtaining evidence relevant to the criminal activity alleged in that warrant. Any search of digital cell-phone data that is not so directed, but instead is directed at uncovering evidence of criminal activity not

506 Mich. 517

identified in the warrant, is effectively a warrantless search that violates the Fourth Amendment absent some exception to the warrant requirement. Here, the officer's review of defendant's cell-phone data for incriminating evidence relating to an armed robbery was not reasonably directed at obtaining evidence regarding drug trafficking--the criminal activity alleged in the warrant--and therefore the search for that evidence was outside the purview of the warrant and thus violative of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand to that Court to determine whether defendant is entitled to relief based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel.1


The circumstances of this case arise from concurrent criminal prosecutions against defendant Kristopher Hughes, one related to drug trafficking and the other related to armed robbery. MCL 750.529. Defendant pleaded no contest to the drug-trafficking charges and these pleas are not the subject of this appeal.2 Defendant

506 Mich. 518


958 N.W.2d 105

to trial on the armed-robbery charge, and after two mistrials due to hung juries, he was convicted of the armed robbery of Ronald Stites.

On August 6, 2016, Stites was going for a walk when he met Lisa Weber. The two talked, and Stites invited Weber back to his home. At Stites's residence, Weber offered to stay with Stites all night and to perform sexual acts in exchange for $50. Stites agreed, and Weber followed him into his bedroom, where he opened a safe containing $4,200 in cash and other items and pulled out a $50 bill that he agreed to give her after the night was over. Stites then performed oral sex on Weber. Afterward, Weber went to the store to get something to drink. Approximately 15–20 minutes later, she called a drug dealer, who went by the name of "K-1" or "Killer," and asked that he come over and sell drugs to her and Stites. Sometime thereafter, a man arrived at Stites's home, sold Weber and Stites crack cocaine, and then departed. Weber and Stites consumed some of the drugs and continued their sexual activities. Later in the evening, the man who had sold the drugs returned to the home with a gun and stole Stites's safe at gunpoint. Stites testified that Weber assisted in the robbery and departed the home with the robber, while Weber asserted that she did not assist in the robbery and only complied with the robber's demands to avoid being harmed. Weber identified defendant as the perpetrator, while Stites could not identify defendant as the perpetrator.

506 Mich. 519

On August 11, 2016, Detective Matthew Gorman submitted a warrant affidavit to search defendant's property for evidence related to separate criminal allegations of drug trafficking. Detective Gorman's affidavit included information from a confidential informant that defendant and an associate named Patrick Pankey were dealing drugs. The warrant affidavit also asserted that as a product of Detective Gorman's experience and training, "drug traffickers commonly use electronic equipment to aid them in their drug trafficking activities. This equipment includes, but is not limited to, ... mobile telephones ...." The warrant affidavit contained no information indicating that Weber was involved in defendant's drug trafficking and did not refer to the previous week's armed robbery at Stites's residence.

The district court judge concluded that there was probable cause for the warrant based upon the attached affidavit and thereby issued a warrant authorizing the police to search three residences that were connected with defendant and his vehicle for further evidence of drug trafficking. As relevant here, the warrant provided:

[A]ny cell phones or ... other devices capable of digital or electronic storage seized by authority of this search warrant shall be permitted to be forensically searched and or manually searched, and any data that is able to be retrieved there from shall be preserved and recorded.

The warrant also contained the following limitation:

Therein to search for, seize, secure, tabulate and make return according to law, the following property and things:
958 N.W.2d 106
Crack Cocaine, and any other illegally possessed controlled substances; any raw material, product, equipment or drug paraphernalia for the compounding, cutting, exporting, importing, manufacturing, packaging, processing,
506 Mich. 520
storage, use or weighing of any controlled substance; proofs of residence, such as but not limited to, utility bills, correspondence, rent receipts, and keys to the premises; proofs as to the identity of unknown suspects such as but not limited to, photographs, certificates, and/or diplomas; prerecorded, illegal drug proceeds and any records pertaining to the receipt, possession and sale or distribution of controlled substances including but not limited to documents, video tapes, computer disks, computer hard drives, and computer peripherals ; other mail receipts, containers or wrappers; currency, property obtained through illegal activity, financial instruments, safety deposit box keys, money order receipts, bank statements and related records; firearms, ammunition, and all occupants found inside. [Emphasis added.]

On August 12, 2016, police were executing a search at one of the addresses set forth in the warrant when they detained defendant and seized a phone that was on his person. On August 17, 2016, defendant was arraigned on the charge of armed robbery.

On August 23, 2016, Detective Edward Wagrowski performed a forensic examination of the phone that was seized from defendant, and all of its data was extracted using Cellebrite, software used for extracting digital data. Upon extraction, Cellebrite separated and sorted the device's data into relevant categories by, for example, placing all of the photographs together in a single location. The extraction process resulted in a 600-page report of defendant's cell-phone data, which included more than 2,000 call logs, more than 2,900 text messages, and more than 1,000 photographs. Detective Wagrowski testified at trial that Cellebrite enabled police to enter search terms to isolate data from specific phone numbers or that contained specific words or phrases. If there were no contacts between a searched number and the device being searched, the searcher would receive no results

506 Mich. 521

and the software would show a blank screen. It is unclear from the record whether and to what extent the data extracted from the cell phone was reviewed for evidence of defendant's drug trafficking.

A month or so after the initial extraction, at the request of the prosecutor in defendant's armed-robbery case, Detective Wagrowski conducted further searches of the cell-phone data for: (a) contacts with the phone numbers of Weber and Stites and (b) the name "Lisa," variations on the word "killer" (defendant's nickname), and the name "Kris/Kristopher" (defendant's actual name). These searches uncovered 19 calls between defendant and Weber on the night of the robbery and 15 text messages between...

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