If a police officer asks to search your phone, you have a right to refuse the request. Texas law does not require you to comply with a police officer’s request to search your phone unless the officer has a valid search warrant.
Contact a Temple criminal attorney if a police officer took your phone without your permission and searched its contents. An experienced attorney can protect your constitutional rights and prevent the police from using any incriminating evidence found on your phone if the officer did not have a search warrant or your permission to take and search your cell phone.
Can Texas Police Search Your Cell Phone?
If a police officer does not have a valid search warrant to look through your cell phone, he/she cannot search your phone. In that situation, you are not required to comply with the officer’s request to give your phone even if the officer puts pressure on you.
In extreme cases, a police officer may use force to take your cell phone or even lie that they have a search warrant. If the officer takes your phone without a search warrant, your permission, or exigent circumstances, any evidence found on the cell phone during an illegal search will not be admissible in court.
If you believe that the officer violated your constitutional rights when he or she searched your cell phone, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Remember: You are not required to comply with a police officer’s request to search your phone unless there is a valid search warrant or exigent circumstances.
Do the Police Need a Warrant to Search My Phone?
Yes, the police need a warrant to search your cell phone. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of persons and their personal property, including phones.
In other words, the police need a warrant to search your phone and other property. However, the police do not need a warrant to take your phone and can search it if “exigent circumstances” exist. Examples of exigent circumstances include:
A warrantless search is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence;
A police officer is in pursuit of a fleeing suspect; or
A person is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death.
In any of these exigent circumstances, the police can search your phone without a warrant if they have probable cause to do so. The second exception to the general requirement of a warrant under the Fourth Amendment is when you consent to the search.
Can the Police Search My Phone If I’m Arrested?
Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution recognizes your right to be secure from unreasonable seizures or searches. Thus, even if you are arrested, the police cannot search your phone in the absence of a search warrant, exigent circumstances, or probable cause.
A Texas court ruled in 2012 that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy following an arrest. In State v. Granville, 373 S.W.3d 218, the court ruled that law enforcement officers cannot search a defendant’s phone when:
The contents of the cell phone seized at the time of the arrest are not relevant to the reason for the arrest;
The police do not have a search warrant; and
There aren’t any exigent circumstances that allow the officers to search the phone without a warrant.
It is not uncommon for people who have been arrested to feel pressured to consent to a search. Police officers can lawfully search your phone when they get your consent. Keep in mind that you have a right to refuse the search before, during, and after your arrest.
Can the Police Use My Phone’s Lock Screen as Evidence?
Sometimes, the police may see incriminating evidence on the lock screen of your phone, including emails, text messages, or even phone calls. However, the data that can be seen on your phone’s lock screen may not be used as evidence in your criminal case.
In 2020, a court ruled that the police need to have a search warrant before using data seen on the lock screen of the defendant’s cell phone to prosecute a crime.
While police officers may take your cell phone during an arrest, they cannot use the contents of your cell phone, including data from the lock screen, to prove your guilt or use it as evidence against you in a criminal case.
Can the Police Obtain Cell Phone Data Through Third Parties?
Your electronic privacy is also protected under the Stored Communications Act. Third-party internet service providers, commonly referred to as ISPs, are required to protect Americans’ electronic privacy and stored data. ISPs must follow strict rules regarding the disclosure of communications and information of their customers.
Thus, government entities, including the police, must have a valid search warrant before obtaining cell phone data and other confidential information through ISPs and third parties. A violation of the Stored Communications Act is punishable by fines and jail time.
Contact a Temple Criminal Attorney Today
Smartphones and mobile technology have had a tremendous impact on all aspects of our life, including the justice system. Data found on a defendant’s cell phone can play a major role in the outcome of the criminal case.
If the police found any incriminating data on your phone, it might be used as evidence to convict you of a crime unless your lawyer can suppress the evidence.
If you believe that you have been a victim of an unlawful search, do not hesitate to speak with a Temple criminal attorney to determine if the police had probable cause to search your phone without a warrant.
Remember: Any evidence gathered during an unlawful search cannot be used to incriminate you. A knowledgeable lawyer will review your particular situation to determine if the police officer violated your constitutional rights or if any procedures were not followed during the search or arrest.
At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, the skilled and results-driven criminal defense lawyers are committed to protecting the rights of our clients. Schedule a free consultation with our criminal lawyers by calling 254-501-4040.