The law frequently struggles to keep pace with technology. For that reason, it can be difficult to know your rights when you are confronted by law enforcement. For instance, are police allowed to search your cellphone?
This particular situation can be complicated, which is why it is important that you understand your rights.
Instances When Police Can Search Your Phone without a Warrant
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement. This means that police are not allowed to search your cellphone without first obtaining your consent in most cases.
However, the following exceptions to that general rule exist:
- You consented to the search
- Law enforcement received permission from your spouse, partner, roommate or house guest to access your smartphone
- You were at the border of the U.S. from another country when authorities searched your device
In addition to these exceptions, there is some gray area when it comes to searches of your cellphone.
Searches Under “Exigent Circumstances”
So, although police are mostly not allowed to search your cellphone without a warrant or explicit permission, they may be able to do so in certain emergency situations.
For instance, a Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that information stored in a cellphone could be erased by the owner remotely. To make sure that no important evidence would be lost in a remote data wipe, the court ruled that police can protect a cellphone by turning it off or blocking incoming signals until they can obtain a warrant to examine its contents.
Additionally, the court ruled that a warrantless search could be justified under “exigent circumstances.” Usually, this requires that the police have probable cause and a lack of time to secure a warrant to prevent imminent danger to life or the destruction of evidence.
So, if the police believe that your phone holds key evidence that is time sensitive and could potentially put lives in danger – such as in the case of a kidnapping or bomb threat – they can claim that exigent circumstances required them to search your phone without a warrant.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you believe that your rights were violated when you were arrested for a crime, you need to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully defending the rights of our clients facing criminal charges. We use our skill and knowledge to battle against illegally obtained evidence so that we can give you the best possible resolution to your case.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, San Diego, Torrance and Sherman Oaks, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense lawyer available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation so we can get started on your case. We will be there when you call.