Can Law Enforcement Demand Your Smartphone Password?
In a world where so much of a person’s life is put on display via social media, it’s difficult to understand what information classifies as private property. Today, many criminal cases are dependent on evidence that comes from cell phone data and personal devices. If you’re ever in a situation where someone, especially a law enforcement official, asks you to open your mobile device, it’s important to understand your rights in this situation.
What Does a Warrant Allow Law Enforcement to Search?
When it comes to searching personal property, certain situations require a warrant and others require only probable cause. For the latter, probable cause is defined as reasonable grounds for making a search or pressing a charge. To understand when law enforcement officials are allowed to search your mobile device, you must first understand when a warrant is required for a search.
Police Officers Must Have A Warrant to Search Your Home
If there’s a situation where law enforcement officials want to enter your home, they can’t come knocking on your door and expect to walk right in. To get into a person’s home, law enforcement officials must first have an official warrant.
To seize and search personal property, it must be specifically mentioned in the search warrant. If the item the police want to search is not listed on the warrant, they can ask the person in control of the device (your mobile phone) for access. If access is given, the police can conduct a search of the item.
Be aware, however, that there is a grey area regarding what information on the device law enforcement is allowed to search without a warrant. If they’re attempting to gain access to the hard drive, it’s in your best interest to say no and seek the guidance of a trusted attorney.
Probable Cause Is Required to Search Your Vehicle
Unlike a home search, only probable cause is required to search a vehicle. If you’re stopped by the police, they can access the inside of your vehicle and everything in plain sight if they suspect illegal activity. This does not mean, however, that police have the right to open and search glove compartments or bags in your vehicle.
Consent Is Required to Search A Mobile Device
The bottom line is unless your mobile device is a listed item on a search warrant, police, and other law enforcement officials are not allowed to search it without your consent. Therefore, they cannot force you to provide your password. Furthermore, unless you consent to let them also search your apps and data, law enforcement only has a right to search the physical device such as the case, outer cover, and battery.
Are Police Allowed to Search My Phone If I’m Arrested?
Once you’re arrested and charged with a criminal offense, different rules apply. After you’re arrested, law enforcement officials can search any items on your person without a warrant. This includes the physical aspects of your mobile device. For law enforcement to extensively search the data or apps on your phone, a warrant must be obtained. Cases, where they believe the evidence on the phone will be destroyed, are the only exception.
Can Law Enforcement Force Me to Open My Mobile Device Using My Fingerprint?
Advances in technology have made it possible to open phones without numerical passcodes. Today, most mobile devices can be opened either by scanning a fingerprint, facial profile, or iris. In cases where law enforcement officials want to search your phone, a fingerprint is still considered a passcode. Therefore, they cannot force you to open your phone using your fingerprint or by any other means.
When law enforcement officials force you to do something that’s outside of their jurisdiction, it’s a violation of your constitutional rights. Any time your constitutional rights are violated, you should seek the assistance and knowledge of a trustworthy criminal defense attorney.
Trusted Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help You Understand Your Rights
Whether your constitutional rights have been violated or you’re facing criminal charges, the assistance of a criminal defense attorney can help you win back your life. The lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm have more than 100 years of combined experience and have helped countless individuals in and around the Orlando, Florida area. William D. Umansky and the attorneys at the Umansky Law Firm are former prosecutors who lend unique knowledge to every case.
To schedule your consultation with The Umansky Law Firm and talk to an attorney today, call our office or contact us online. Don’t let your life be defined by one mistake. Everyone deserves a second chance.