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When can a police officer search my phone?

With the commonality of cell phones, there have been new rules made for police officers to abide by when trying to find evidence using them. Remember these five guidelines if you're ever caught in a situation when your cell phone could potentially incriminate you.

1) If you give your consent to the police officer

It's natural to be intimidated by a police officer, especially if you have been breaking the law. You want to be compliant with an officer, but, if they ask to see your cell phone, you can say no. In most cases, the police officer will just drop the question, unless it's a serious potential offense and they may attempt to get a search warrant.

2) If your phone is in your house and they have a warrant

Consider a scenario where police officers are confident that your cellphone will be able to convict you of a crime, and that cell phone is in your house. If the police officers don't have a warrant that you've visibly seen, then you don't have to let them inside, nor hand over your phone. If the officer tries to interview you instead, you still don't have to do that; you should decline to speak to them until your attorney can be present.

3) Make sure people you're living with know your situation

If you aren't at your house where your cell phone is, make sure everyone in your house is aware not to give police officers access to the home or phone unless they have a warrant. If you do consent to a search, the police officer will be able to search only the areas you give him permission. If a police officer has probable cause to believe that your cell phone has incriminating information on it, and they feel you're going to destroy said evidence, they don't need a warrant.

4) If you're arrested, police officers still can only search your phone without a warrant in limited cases

Police officers will be able to remove a phone case or take out the battery, but will not be able to search your data without a warrant unless it's an extreme scenario.

5) Border control has a stricter protocol than regular traffic stops

Border Patrol has more control on being able to search people and their things due to safety reasons. These rules are not only relevant at state borders, but also at international airports because they have the same functions as border control.

To recap some important information; you don't have to allow a police officer to look through your phone unless they have a warrant that you've seen. If you're not comfortable with a police officer searching your house, you don't have to let them in unless they have a warrant. Finally, make others aware of your legal situation if a police officer may confront them on your behalf.

If you are in a situation where you feel it's necessary for a lawyer to be present before police officers get a warrant to search the data, do not hesitate to call one. At Gullberg, Box & Worby LLC we want to help you with your criminal charges to help give you the best possible outcome.

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