Can a Police Officer search your cell phone without a Warrant?
Have you had your cell phone searched by a police officer after you were arrested? As of June 25, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States held that, generally, without a warrant, a police officer may not have access to an arrested individual’s digital information on a seized cell phone. Essentially the decision states that if your cell phone was searched without your consent and/or without a warrant, then any information the officer recovered may not be admissible as evidence against you in your criminal proceedings. It should be noted that there are limited exceptions where an officer could search your cell phone without your consent and without a search warrant and that information obtained may be used against you.
If there is no warrant and no consent by the arrested individual a warrantless search is reasonable if it falls within specific exceptions. The Court looked at three expectations to determine if a warrantless cell phone search would be permissible. It was reasonable for an officer to: 1. search an arrested individual to remove any weapons to ensure officer safety and to ensure the individual does not have access to anything that might aid him in escaping incarceration. 2. search and seize any evidence that is on the person so that that evidence cannot be destroyed. 3. open a closed container that was found on the arrested person to ensure officer safety and containment of the arrestee.
The Court noted the amount of personal information that is stored on cell phones is relatively high. Additionally, once arrested, the phone is no longer accessible to the individual and therefore cannot be used as a weapon, aid in eluding incarceration, and evidence on the phone cannot be destroyed because of the lack of access. Thus, the Court now requires most searches of cell phones to have voluntary consent by the arrested individual or a search warrant.
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All information included in the above blog is solely for informational purposes. The information above does not create an attorney/client relationship and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Seek legal advice on the topic before relying on any information contained herein, as laws change and the information may be out-of-date.