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Cell Phone Serches - Criminal Law FAQs

Can the police take my cell phone from me and search it?

Probably not, unless they have a search warrant. Courts all over the Country are divided on this issue, but the Senate is considering amending the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 by requiring police officers to obtain search warrants before allowing them to search a person's cell phone for e-mails and text messages. Why? Because the information in a cell phone is not in 'plain view' and people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the large amounts of private data that their cell phones contain. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the police from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the Supreme Court has not ruled specifically on this issue. However, they have ruled that the police need to obtain a search warrant before placing a GPS tracing device on someone's car. That's why the answer to this question is that the police 'probably' need a search warrant. If your cell phone has been taken from you and searched, call a lawyer right away. If your cell phone is locked with a personal password, do not give the password to the police. This may be interpreted as giving consent to the search of your phone.

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