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Can police search your cellphone?

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2020 | Criminal Defense

How much information about your life is on your phone? For the average person nowadays, their cellphone could reveal quite a bit about their personal lives from photos, text messages and even their GPS location services.

It can be convenient to have so much information at your fingertips, but it might also pose a significant risk if you face charges of a felony or misdemeanor. Many people might worry: can Michigan police search your cellphone in an investigation?

Police need a warrant to search your phone

In 2014, the Supreme Court determined that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution applied to cellphones as well. This means that police cannot search your cellphone unless:

  • You consent to a search; or
  • They have probable cause and a search warrant.

Your cellphone is as much your property as your home or vehicle. It arguably contains more information than either your home or vehicle as well. Therefore, the Court ruled that police need a warrant to search the information on your phone.

What if police obtain a warrant?

Even if the police do obtain a warrant to search your cellphone, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself.

During a police search, you have the right to:

  1. See the warrant: Ask to see the warrant. A valid search warrant must have a judge’s signature, describe what the police can search as well as what evidence they are looking for. The information on the warrant also must be correct, including your name and address. If there is information missing from the warrant, you have the right to deny a search.
  2. Remain silent: The police might ask questions during the search, but you do not have to answer them. You do not even have to speak to police while they search, and you should not unless you have an attorney present.
  3. Be present during the search: The Fourth Amendment requires police to respect your property during a search. Therefore, you have the right to observe the search. However, you do not have to assist the police in their search in any way, even if they ask.

If you are facing criminal charges, you must understand the rights you have during a police search, whether they search your phone or any other property, so you can protect your rights.

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