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Do the Police Need a Search Warrant for Your Cell Phone?

Cell phones have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Older cell phones were the size of bricks and had poor reception. Today, many people have pictures, texts, emails, and even entire documents stored on their phones. Cell phones now serve as photo albums, calendars, and digital filing cabinets, in addition to being a way to call or text.

If you are arrested, can police search your phone if they suspect you are guilty of a crime? The answer is that they need a warrant unless you consent to the search.

You Are Protected from Unreasonable Searches & Seizures

The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to cell phones, even though phones didn’t exist back when the amendment was drafted. A cell phone is not much different than a briefcase or a pocketbook—the police need a warrant backed up by probable cause to look through it.

A search warrant isn’t hard for the police to get, especially when they have solid evidence linking you to a crime. But many officers like to cut corners. Others search a phone to try and link someone else to the crime.

Don’t Consent to a Search

There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. A big exception is consent. The police will probably ask you for permission to look through your phone. When they arrest you, they will probably also confiscate your phone and keep it in their possession.

Our advice is simple: Don’t give permission. It’s much better to make police work for their evidence. There is no reason to allow them to scroll through your messages.

Protect Your Phone with a Password

We also strongly recommend that anyone with a phone have it password protected. This will keep your information secure when the police seize it. What’s to stop the police from going through your phone even if they don’t have consent or a warrant? Not much other than a password.

We Can Request Suppression of Evidence

Of course, if the police search your phone without a warrant, we will ask a judge not to admit any evidence at trial. Under the law, a judge should suppress this type of evidence when the police violate your constitutional rights to seize it. Suppressing it creates an incentive for the police to follow the Constitution, otherwise it is harder for them to get convictions.

Unfortunately, some inexperienced lawyers fail to bring these suppression motions. They might be overwhelmed with clients or not really understand constitutional criminal procedure.

At Tad Nelson & Associates, we always review whether we can ask a judge to suppress evidence when police make mistakes. In our experience, these types of illegal searches happen quite often. Police like to cut corners, and requesting a warrant takes time. We always make sure that the prosecution has to work to get a conviction.For more information, contact Houston criminal defense lawyer Tad Nelson today. You can talk about the charges you face and whether the police snooped through your phone. Our consultations are free and confidential. Call Today!