When can the police seize your cellphone?

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2018 | Criminal Defense

As technology improves, people are spending more time on their cellphones. Americans use their phones for banking, for work, to apply to school and to connect with friends. There are also apps that track your location and other data about you. Most people’s cellphones contain a large amount of personal information.

With all that information available on a cellphone, it is no surprise law enforcement officers are eager to access it during a criminal investigation. However, the court has placed some limits on when police can seize a person’s phone.

Police can take your phone when you are arrested, however…

If your phone is found on your person when you are arrested, the police can confiscate it. However, the officers cannot go through your phone until they obtain a search warrant. There are a few caveats to this rule. They can search the physical part of your phone, like the case, to look for weapons. The officers can also remove your battery to prevent data being erased from your phone. In extreme circumstances, like to prevent a bomb going off, law enforcement may also search your phone without a warrant.

Officers can seize your phone with a warrant, but…

If police officers have a warrant to search your home, they can confiscate your phone. However, the warrant must include language that specifies your cellphone is to be seized. Officers do not have the right to take it, if your phone is not on the warrant. There is an exception though. If the police observe illegal activity occurring on your phone, they can seize your phone without a warrant.

Law enforcement may take your phone, if you consent to a search, however…

This may seem obvious. After consenting to a police search, the officers could take your phone during a search. However, agreeing to a search does not have to include your phone. You can limit their search to exclude your cellphone. That is your legal right.

The line between what is considered a legal search and what is not can seem pretty thin. If you believe evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search, you may want to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights, and if the search was illegal, help you prove that in the court of law.

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Charles Waechter | Lawyer.com Premium
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