Understanding Cell Phone Searches After an Arrest
If police officers arrest you for a suspected crime, they can search you as well as the area within your immediate vicinity or any area that is under your control (such as your vehicle). If they come across your cellphone in the search, you may have questions about whether or not they have the right to investigate the contents of your phone and whether or not a warrant is required to do so.
The US Supreme Court identifies how the 4th Amendment should be interpreted as it relates to basic search and seizure roles. The primary purpose of the 4th Amendment is to protect a person from unreasonable intrusion by the government. Search and seizure law, associated with new technology can be uncertain for many years because cases take so long to get to the Supreme Court level. Cell phone searches were relatively unclear until June 2014, when the US Supreme Court issued a decision that police officers need warrants in most situations to search the cell phone of someone who has been arrested. After an arrest has occurred, officers are allowed to search any containers on or immediately around the person who has been arrested. However, lower courts across the nation couldn’t determine whether or not this search would reasonably extend to cell phones. The Supreme Court identified that a cell phone is different from a typical container; while another container such as someone’s wallet might contain evidence, the evidence in one situation is physical whereas with the cell phone it is digital.
The digital evidence incorporated inside a cell phone is extremely comprehensive and personal. For that reason, data can be stored easily on a cell phone and this makes it different from typical containers that the police are authorized to search after an arrest has occurred.
If you think that the police have violated your rights and did something that required a warrant when they had not actually had one executed at that time, this may play a role in your criminal defense case. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.