Under the Fourth Amendment, Americans have a right to privacy. This includes a right to feel secure in their homes, papers, effects, and more. This means that unreasonable search and seizures are not permitted. However, what if a crime took place and valuable information may be stored on a cell phone? Does this make a difference? To gain a better understanding of the rights involved, you can look at the history of the Fourth Amendment and why it was enacted in the first place. In the 18th Century in England, the King’s officials were issuing warrants that allowed officials to break into homes and retrieve evidence of disloyalty to the king. These were called general warrants, and the Fourth Amendment was enacted to forbid these warrants and protect the rights of people. Today, probable cause plays a large part in the rights of the American people and whether or not a search and seizure is “just.” So, if you have been involved in a crime or the police believe that you are involved, could the police officer take a look at your phone? A cell phone is much like any other item that is designed to fit in your pocket, which means that an officer must have a warrant to conduct a search for it. However, police may find an exception to this warrant. Here are some of the most popular exceptions:
- The cell phone owner gave consent to search the device.
- The cell phone was not in the pocket and was actually in plain view.
- The search occurred after the owner of the cell phone was actually arrested.
- A stop and frisk action took place. This means that the police stopped a person when they had reasonable suspicion to believe that the person committed or will commit a criminal act. They are permitted to frisk a person if they believe that they were armed and dangerous. However, you must ask yourself, does the cop have the right to seize and search your cell phone specifically? There must be reasonable doubt, meaning the cell phone would serve as a weapon like an explosive.
Other Issues to be Addressed
If you were not near your cell phone, the police may be allowed to search your cell phone without a warrant. Let’s say that somebody has stolen your phone – this means that it has become part of a crime. The police will be permitted to look at the contents to figure out who stole it. If your cell phone was lost and somebody turned it into the police, they also have a right to look and see what was on it to try and find you, as the owner. Cell phones are extremely complex and the courts are just now figuring out how to address many issues involving search and seizure. However, not all hope is lost. Police must take preventative measures to avoid the loss of a phone’s data. They are urged to turn off a cell phone, place it in a protective bag to keep it away from radio waves, or even disable the automatic encryption lock. Because of many emergency situations or a fear of a loss of information, it could take as little as 15 minutes for some officers to obtain a warrant to a phone. Do you believe your rights have been violated after a search and seizure of a cell phone? You may have a case. You should call the Law Office of Peter Blair for more information on what you can do next. Find out more about what options you have today!