Can Police Search Your Cell Phone in Texas?
This problem comes up more in older cases than new ones. Cell phones have become more and more important in our lives as time has gone on. Remember – ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS KEEP A PASSWORD ON YOUR PHONE. We’ve come a long way since flip phones and phones without text messaging. The reason why, is that in June of 2014 the United States Supreme Court ruled that cell phones deserve the same constitutional privacy protections as other areas in our lives. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. If you read the post on Search Warrant vs Warrant of Arrest you would know that any searches done by police, without a warrant, are presumed to be illegal unless the search falls under an exception. I also wrote a series of posts about exceptions to the requirement for a warrant. So, the question is… can police search your cell phone in Texas? The short answer is – NO.
Why the police can’t search your cell phone in Texas.
Basically, the Supreme Court recognized that cell phones have become major parts of our lives as time has gone on. Most of us now hold in our hands a computer that is more powerful than the one which originally helped people land on the moon. With this increased ability to hold information, also comes our privacy interest. Think about all the things we keep on our phones. May people even keep passwords on their phones in numbers or patterns.
Phones acting as our personal filing cabinets.
We expect our phones to be private to a certain extent. We put passwords on them to keep people out! Stop for a minute and think about all the information that might be available on your phone. This may include tax records, medical records, personal emails, bank account information, family pictures, and messages to and from your spouse. Cell phones are not “just phones” anymore in our lives. They are woven into our daily lives and we use them for everything from a map, to a calendar, to flashlights and alarm clocks.
What if a police officer asks to search your phone in Texas?
The simple answer to this question is – NO. Police need a specific reason to search your phone. They need to have enough of a reason to establish probable cause to convince a Judge that a Search Warrant should be issued. Make the police officer go to a Judge and get a warrant. You are perfectly within your right to ask for this. Not only that, but according to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Constitution demands it. Absent some exigent circumstance recognized by the law, such as bomb threats or kidnappings, the police cannot legally search your phone without a warrant or without your permission.
How does a search without a warrant affect your case?
The short answer is that when the police break the law, they don’t get to benefit from their breaking of the rules. The same rules apply when Police Illegally Search Your Car. This is especially true if your case was filed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June of 2014. Illegally obtained evidence can lead to the exclusion of evidence against you in Court. It can also lead to a case dismissal or a better Plea Bargain offered to you. Consider these things when talking to your lawyer about your case where your cell phone was taken by police. In any event, you should be able to ask for the return of your cell phone once police have copied its data.