Take a second and look around you. Chances are pretty good that your cellphone is within arm’s reach. In fact, you may even be reading this blog post on your cellphone as you ride the bus to work, wait for an elevator or sit around the house. Most people have their cellphones on them at all times and use them for everything from getting directions to finding a date.
Because of how much we use our cellphones and how much information is actually stored on these hand-held devices, the consequences of them falling into the wrong hands can be very upsetting. We often take steps to protect them from being accessed by a thief, but what about if a police officer takes a phone during an arrest — can we protect our information from being accessed by that officer?
We discussed a case that had an important impact on this very issue in an article on our website. You can read the article in full here, but basically we noted that police officers in Florida generally cannot access the information on a cellphone during an arrest without a warrant.
Police can, however, seize a cellphone during an arrest and once a warrant is secured, the phone’s contents can be searched. The phone can also be searched if you consent to a warrantless search, which is often unwise.
What this means is that if you are arrested by police, they can take your phone. If you have illegal or questionable material on that phone, like pornographic videos or photos of minors, you will likely want to speak with an attorney immediately to challenge an arrest or try to prevent a search warrant from being issued.
Illegal searches or seizures are the reasons why many criminal charges get dismissed. Evidence collected during an unlawful search is considered fruit of the poisonous tree and can be thrown out, leaving the prosecution with little or no other evidence to make their case.
If you are facing criminal charges based on evidence collected during a potentially unlawful search, you need to know your rights and your options. Speaking with an attorney can be crucial step in protecting yourself, your future and your freedom.
Source: Florida Department of Law Enforcement, “13-04: Search of a Cell Phone during Lawful Arrest,” accessed on July 20, 2015