Can the Police Access My Smartphone?

Published: Jul 31, 2017, by admin in Constitutional Rights, Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

If you are like most people, you use your cell phone for everything like texting friends, checking your work email, and organizing your schedule. Your phone has a wealth of data about you and your friends and family. Depending on how connected you are, anyone who got ahold of your phone could figure out where you live, work, bank, hangout, and more. They could also uncover more private data, like your Social Security Number or financial information. All of this data can come in handy for police who suspect you of a crime. That is why they may try to get their hands on your smartphone during an investigation or after an arrest. But that raises a lot of questions, including: When can the police access your smartphone?

If the police took your phone and searched it without your permission at any time during an investigation, before or after an arrest, contact the Chicago criminal defense lawyers of O’Meara Law LLC as soon as possible. We will review your situation moment-by-moment to determine if your rights were violated. Call us today at 312-909-0706.

Can the Police Access My Smartphone?

There are two legal ways the police can access your smartphone: through your consent and with a warrant.

If the police want to look through your phone, whether before or after an arrest, you have the option to let them. If you give your phone to the police, even if you make it clear you are unhappy to do so, and you unlock it for them, then you are letting them search through it. Your consent means the police can lawfully sift through your pictures, communications, and other electronic data.

If you refuse to hand over your phone or unlock it after an arrest, then the police can go to a judge to obtain a warrant. If it is likely that there is evidence of a crime on your smartphone, including GPS data of your location at a certain time, then the judge will probably order a warrant for the search of your phone. This could require you to give over the password or use your finger print to open the phone. It could also give the police the power to use software to get around your passcode or send it back to the manufacturer.

However, the real question is: Can the police access my smartphone without a warrant and without my consent? The answer is NO.

U.S. Supreme Court Protects Cell Phones

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court in Riley v. California determined you have a right to privacy in regard to your cell phone. That is because modern smartphones contain a significant amount of private information about you – even more than your wallet or purse. Considering the amount of personal information you save in your phone, it is clear you expect to be able to keep it private from other individuals, businesses, and the police.

The Supreme Court’s agreement in regard to this right to privacy with your phone is extremely important. This means your phone is covered by the Fourth Amendment, which protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.

In general, the police cannot search the digital information on your cellphone after seizing it in an arrest without a warrant. If the cops want to unlock your phone or look through it, they either need your consent or a warrant.

Did the Police Look Through Your Phone?

If you were arrested and the police took your phone, contact our Chicago criminal defense lawyers of O’Meara Law LLC right away. If your phone was searched without your permission or a warrant, we will fight to have this evidence excluded from any criminal case against you.

To learn more about your rights in regard to your smartphone, call us today at 312-909-0706.