When can an officer search your phone?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Mobile phones have become such an essential element in most people’s lives. There is little that people do not use their phones for. It holds financial information, calendars, social relationships and work-related information. Naturally, you may not want anyone searching through your phone without your permission, regardless of their position.

If you have a confrontation with an officer and he or she asks you to unlock your phone, do you have to do it?

Listen to the Constitution

First, the police must obey the U.S. Constitution. While cell phones may not be directly mentioned in the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court did order that phones fall under the protection of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful searches and seizures. The Fifth, on the other hand, protects you against self-incrimination. Since your phone has a lot of personal information, the Constitution protects you from having to provide this information to the police in most cases.

Obey any search warrants

If an officer has a legitimate search warrant, you do have to hand your phone over. The only reason an officer can search your phone without a warrant is if an officer believes that you may remotely wipe the data. In this case, the officer may place the phone in a bag that blocks radio waves. Likewise, in emergencies, officers can receive warrants quickly. They will do this if they feel someone’s life is in danger.

If the officer searches your phone without permission or has no legitimate search warrant, then the exclusionary rule can keep the phone out of evidence.

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