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When can the police legally search your phone?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Technology is a core part of daily life, with many people carrying a smartphone at all times. These devices offer convenience and connectivity but they also hold vast amounts of personal data. What happens when the police want to search it?

There are a few things to know about when the police can, and cannot, search your smartphone.

A search warrant is typically required

In most cases, police need a search warrant issued by a judge to lawfully search your phone. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, which means that law enforcement must demonstrate probable cause to obtain a warrant before searching your phone without your permission.

You can give permission

If the police ask you for permission to search your phone, they can negate the need for a warrant with your consent. Remember that you have the right to refuse, and refusing to provide your access code is not an admission of guilt.

If you consent to the search, you also have the right to limit the scope of that search. You can restrict officers to specific apps, screens or functions. In addition, you can revoke your consent at any time. Be clear about what you will allow and defend your rights by revoking consent if they breach those boundaries.

Statistics show that 92% of individuals in the United States have at least one smartphone device. That puts a majority of the population at risk of unlawful smartphone searches. Know your rights and verbalize your refusal of consent. Asserting your rights is important for all citizens, even when you feel you have nothing to hide.