Cell Phone Searches are common in all criminal cases today. If you are arrested, especially for a drug charge, the police will want to search your phone. Why? Because they think they’ll find evidence of who you sell to or buy from.
But can they? No.
In order to search your cell phone – UNLESS YOU GIVE CONSENT – the police must have a warrant. Warrants are much easier for the police to get than they used to be. There are standard forms for the police to use to get a warrant for cell phone searches and it doesn’t take much time. As long as they have a reason, they can get a warrant.
What’s the moral of this story – don’t keep stuff on your cell phone if you think you’re going to be arrested. Or simply, don’t carry your cell phone if you’re planning on committing crimes. And if you do – PUT A PASSWORD on it.
Lost and Abandoned Cell Phone Searches
What if you drop your cell phone, or you “accidentally” leave it at a crime scene? Like in a stolen car, or you’re running from the police and it falls from your pocket?
That’s a little different. Then technically the phone is “abandoned”. There are distinct laws about abandoned property and usually, the police have a right to search it. Like if it’s a purse or a backpack that they find at a crime scene.
But in the case of a cell phone, especially if the phone is password protected, they need a warrant.
In a recent 4th DCA case, the Court said that the information on a cell phone is different from any other type of information, and that it requires a higher level of privacy. Thus, the police need a warrant to look through that information. That is, they need to have a reason, and tell a judge what that reason is, and why they think it’s necessary for their investigation. (See State v. K.C., 4th DCA, Dec. 7, 2016)
What about Pass codes on Cell Phone Searches?
If the police have a search warrant for your phone, and they can get past the pass code, they can search your cell phone. In some cases, you may even be required to give them the pass code. If they have a warrant.
If they don’t have a warrant – then they can’t search the phone. Period. Regardless of how they got your phone.
Stay tuned for these laws to change. This is a new area of law that is just beginning to be litigated.
If you have any questions about cell phones searches, specific to your criminal case – Call us.