In this day and age, we rely on our phones for a lot. Most of us do not leave home without our phone, ever. Also, our phones contain a ton of private and sensitive data, from bank accounts to social media accounts, and everything in between. With all of this information being stored on a phone, someone else having access to your phone can be a big intrusion of privacy.
When you are pulled over or if you are arrested, police officers will often search your vehicle or home for evidence. With the increased use of cell phones today, police officers may also try to get access to your phone, to search for more evidence to be used against you.
The question now is, do police officers have the right to search your phone without a warrant? Currently, in the state of Florida, lawmakers are working on ways to help you protect your privacy when it comes to your cell phone.
If you have been arrested or if you are pulled over, and a police officer asks to look at your phone, here are a few things that you should know.
Fourth Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment provides you with protection against unlawful search and seizures. This amendment protects your privacy and means that your computer, cell phone, home, vehicle, business, and anyplace else where citizens should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, are all protected by the Fourth Amendment.
For the purpose of speaking about cell phones, police typically can only search through your phone after you have given your consent or if they have a warrant from a judge. Warrants are only issued by judges after probable cause is demonstrated. There are some situations where there are exceptions to this, but these exceptions are not very common.
Should You Give Consent?
Miami criminal defense attorneys will tell you the best way to protect yourself is to not give consent to a search. If an officer asks your permission to search your phone, home, or vehicle, simply refuse politely. Refusing a search is within your rights as a citizen of the United States. It is possible that the police will still conduct a search, but if you do not agree to the search and the search was found to be unconstitutional, then the results of the search may be excluded.
Fairly often a police officer will ask to conduct a search and not tell you that you have the right to refuse the search. If you refuse to allow an officer to search your phone, the officer will need to present probable cause in order to obtain a warrant to conduct the search of your phone. If the officer still searches through your phone, chances are that your Miami criminal defense attorney will be able to have any evidence that was found during the search suppressed during a trial.
If a police officer does not get your consent to search, they will have to get a search warrant from a judge. In order to do this, the judge has to be provided with a strong case of why the search is necessary. However, there are some cases where an officer may search through your phone without getting a warrant.
A legal search without a warrant can be conducted if:
- Consent is provided by the owner
- Search is on public school property
- Evidence can be seen publicly, such as a photo on the screen of the phone
What to Do if Your Phone is Searched
If a police officer goes through your phone without your consent and without a warrant, do not try to fight back or resist. This may cause other legal issues to arise. The best thing to do if this occurs is to contact a criminal attorney in Miami as soon as possible. It is possible that your rights were violated and if the illegal search provided evidence that was then used to charge you with a crime, a criminal defense attorney can help have the evidence suppressed from the case.
The most important thing to remember is that you can refuse to allow a search of your person, your home, or any of your personal belongings including your phone. If you refuse a search, a warrant must be obtained for the search to take place. If you feel your rights have been violated in any way, it is always best to contact a lawyer right away.
We handle a variety of criminal law cases, so call us now if you have any questions.
View more contact information here: Miami Criminal Defense Attorney.