Can the Police Take and Search My Phone Without a Warrant?

can police take my phone without a warrant

Can the Police Take and Search My Phone Without a Warrant?

Now that using a cell phone while driving is illegal in Arizona, you could get pulled over for talking on your phone or texting while driving. If you are arrested, the police officer can search through your pockets. This begs the question, “can the police take and search my cell phone without a warrant?” 

It’s essential that you understand your rights when a police officer pulls you over. Let’s take a look at what this recent law change means for your right to privacy.

Can the police take and search my phone without a warrant?

Thanks to the Fourth Amendment, the police cannot search your phone without a warrant. The police are allowed to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over, but you have the right to decline this request

However, a police officer can take your phone as evidence, even without a warrant. The police can hold your phone for as long as necessary but you don’t have to give them your cellphone password. If you do not share your password, the police cannot check through your phone without a warrant.

If a police officer wants to check your phone without your consent before or after they take it, then they need to show you a search warrant. Even if you’ve been arrested, the police may not search through your phone data until they have obtained and presented you with a search warrant. 

Some Exceptions Apply

There are some cases where a police officer can legally search your property without a warrant, including:

  • Automobile search exception—A police officer has probable cause to search the vehicle. Example: an illegal item is sitting on the passenger seat in plain view.
  • Inventory search exception—The police have impounded the item. Example: a backpack was impounded, so police are allowed to search through it.
  • Search incident to arrest—The law that allows a police officer to search the person they have arrested. 
  • Verbal permission—A police officer doesn’t need a warrant because you’ve consented. Example: you get pulled over, the officer asks to see your phone, and you hand it over for them to look through.

In most cases, it’s in your best interest to decline an officer’s request to search you, your vehicle, or your phone. If the police do have a warrant, ask to see it before you consent to a search.

A proper warrant will contain the name of the arrested person, their address, details of the items allowed to be taken, a deadline for the search, and a judge’s signature.

What laws protect me from an illegal search?

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches. Much like the police need a reasonable cause to search your vehicle after pulling you over, they need the same reasonable cause to search through your phone. 

The Fifth Amendment also gives you the right to avoid incriminating testimony. This means that you’re allowed to remain silent—you do not have to help the officer with their search through your phone. 

Phoenix Traffic Lawyer

Nothing beats proper representation in court. If you live in the Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert, or Tempe areas, you can secure excellent legal help from Todd Coolidge. He can help fight your traffic offense and protect your rights. Whether the police take your phone during an arrest, search your phone without a warrant, or you’re faced with a traffic violation, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Contact the office of Todd Coolidge today for expert help with your case. 


photo by BodyWornByUtility: image used under creative commons license – commercial use (01/22/2021) (Pixabay)