Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense & Personal Injury Attorneys
Can the Police Search My Cell Phone Without a Warrant?

Can the Police Search My Cell Phone Without a Warrant?

In today’s day and age, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding police encounters. While most people are aware of their constitutional rights, many are unsure about just how inclusive these rights really are. For example, have you ever wondered whether or not the police can look at your cell phone once you have been arrested? After all, they’re allowed to search you, your pockets and all areas within your control after an arrest.

The short answer to this question is no, but of course, there are exceptions. Since the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures, the police must have either a judge-issued warrant or your consent in order to search your cell phone. Even so, there was (and still is) a lot of uncertainty on this issue until the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in June of 2014.

What the U.S. Supreme Court Says About Cell Phone Searches

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Riley v. California. In this ruling, they held that police officers generally need warrants in order to search an arrestee’s cell phone—stating that cell phones are not like typical containers, but should rather be treated like homes. While the police are allowed to search people and any containers on or immediately around them, cell phones do not fit in this category.

The data that can be found on a cell phone is both vast and extremely personal. Today, a person’s cell phone can contain anything from bank records to intimate messages to data that can track the owner’s location. Although some of this data may be relevant to a criminal investigation, this does not give a police officer the right to access it without going through the proper legal channels—which, in this case, would require a warrant.

When “Exigent Circumstances” Would Apply

Like most laws, there are exceptions to the Supreme Court’s ruling that law enforcement officers must first obtain a warrant in order to search your cell phone. For example, the “exigent circumstances” doctrine may allow an officer to conduct a search without first procuring a warrant under severe or emergency circumstances. This would apply if they think that it could help them avert an impending disaster, for example.

In other cases, the police may decide to search your cell phone without a warrant if they think that the data on it will be lost forever through “remote wiping.” Even so, the police would be treading on thin ice. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this issue, and certain exceptions, even after the Supreme Court handed down their latest ruling, which is why you should hire an attorney if you feel that your rights have been violated.

Tell Us About Your Case in a Free Consultation

If you were arrested for any reason, your first course of action should be to call a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer at Rudenberg and Glasser, P.A. We are available to clients 24/7, so you trust that we will be there when you need us most. We have also handled thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in the past, which means that we are well-equipped to provide the aggressive defense that you need.

If the police have violated your rights by searching your cell phone without a warrant or your consent, we will fight diligently to have the evidence of this search thrown out of court. If you so choose, we may also be able to represent you in a case against the infringing officers or police department. We have a vast amount of experience in handling police misconduct cases, as well as criminal cases, so don’t wait to give us a call.

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  • Not Guilty, Acquitted at Trial Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon

    Outcome: Client was alleged to have used his vehicle to strike victim, and there was video of the incident which could have been interpreted to actually show the crime. The state was offering significant prison time before trial. By meticulous planning and strategic cross-examination to expose the motives and fabrications by the alleged victim, and an eyewitness in support of the alleged victim, Rudenberg & Glasser convinced a jury to acquit the client and avoid a mandatory long prison sentence.

  • Domestic Violence
    Outcome: Rudenberg & Glasser went to trial and were able to show during cross-examination that the alleged victim was the aggressor and that the client acted in self-defense. The jury returned a not guilty verdict almost immediately following trial.
  • Domestic Violence With 911 Call and Pictures
    Outcome: Rudenberg & Glasser took the case to trial after fleshing out inconsistencies in the alleged victim's account. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and the client's unblemished record was preserved.
  • False Arrest

    Outcome: Attorney Glasser was able to show with video footage that his client did not commit the alleged offense and furthermore, the police officer who ordered his arrest was negligent in his investigation and improperly supervised.

    Read more about this story on the Sun Sentinel.

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    Outcome: Through compelling sentencing memorandum and passionate oral argument, Rudenberg & Glasser were able to convince the federal court judge to sentence their client to treatment for substance abuse, and no incarceration, even though the client had a lengthy criminal history and the Government was seeking prison time.

  • Felony DUI: Client was in an Accident and Left the Scene
    Outcome: Rudenberg & Glasser filed a compelling motion to suppress evidence based on law enforcement's actions during the investigation. Rudenberg & Glasser were able to persuade the prosecutor prior to the motion to suppress hearing that the charge should be broken down from a felony to a misdemeanor and the client was offered probation instead of the previously sought prison sentence.
  • Final Injunction Hearing
    Outcome: Client desperately needed to avoid a final injunction on his record. Rudenberg & Glasser defended him at the hearing and proved that the Petitioner was not in fear for her safety. The judge dismissed the injunction.
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor: Resisting Police Officer Without Violence
    Outcome: Mr. Rudenberg presented evidence that the police officer’s version of events was not credible, and that accusations were made to justify excessive use of force by police officer. Jury returned a verdict of not guilty in less than five minutes.
  • First-Degree Misdemeanors: DUI & Possession of Cannabis
    Outcome: Mr. Rudenberg won a motion arguing the DUI checkpoint was conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and the Judge entered an order suppressing all evidence. Case was dropped by the State, and client avoided a mandatory conviction for DUI, as well as mandatory fines and license suspensions.
  • $250,000 Pre-Trial Personal Injury

    Outcome: Client was injured by a malfunctioning door, requiring stitches and leaving a scar on client's knee. There were limited medical bills and no surgeries, but through extremely challenging and successful negotiations, Rudenberg & Glasser were able to secure a settlement of $250,000.

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