Can Police Search My Phone Without a Warrant?
Now that texting while driving is illegal in Arizona, as well as talking on your cell phone while driving, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re being pulled over for having your phone in your hand.
This probably leaves you with a few questions:
- Can police search through my phone without a warrant?
- Do any laws protect me from a search?
Let’s address these questions. You need to know your rights if a police officer ever pulls you over and asks to see your phone.
Can a police officer search my phone without a warrant?
No. Police are allowed to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over, and you have the right to decline this request. The officer may still need to take the phone as evidence. However, you don’t have to give the access code and allow police to search your phone.
If a police officer wants to search through your phone they will need to show you a search warrant. Even if you’ve been arrested, the police may not search through your phone data until a warrant has been obtained.
Some Exceptions Apply
- Automobile search exception—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—Police officer has impounded the item. Example: a backpack was impounded, so police are allowed to search through it.
- Search incident to arrest
- Verbal permission—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 search through
It’s probably 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.
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.
Do any laws protect me in this situation?
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches. Much like 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. Contact the office of Todd Coolidge today for help with your case.
photo by BodyWornByUtility: image used under creative commons license – commercial use (01/22/2021) (Pixabay)