By: Mark Diaz
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Cellphones and Your Rights – Illegal Police Searches
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental authorities. With the amount of sensitive information typically contained on a person’s cell phone, naturally, it is one of the most important things to protect from an illegal police search.
You need to know when law enforcement can (and cannot) search your phone and what to do if your rights are violated. Here, our Galveston criminal defense lawyers explain the most important things you should know about your cell phone and your privacy rights.
Know Your Rights: When Police Can (and Cannot) Search Your Cellphone in Texas
Cell phones have become an essential part of our daily lives. You can learn an enormous amount of sensitive personal information about someone by looking through their phone. It’s not surprising that police officers often try to get people to waive their constitutional privacy rights and hand over their phones for inspection.
With that being said, it’s important to understand that you and your personal cellphone are protected under the Fourth Amendment. You have constitutional privacy protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The highest criminal court in the State of Texas has ruled that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy to the contents of your cell phone. Because of this, to lawfully search a cell phone in Texas, police officers must obtain a warrant from a judge before searching your phone. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first exception is if they gain valid consent from you to search it, or in other words, you waive your constitutional right. The second exception is if there are exigent circumstances present, which is a legally technical term that generally means that there is an imminent risk of the relevant content on your phone being destroyed.
A police officer may casually ask you to unlock your phone so that they can look through it. Do not give them permission and let them do this. You have no obligation to let an officer look through your phone. If you do, you are essentially consenting to them searching it in its entirety., and thus, an otherwise illegal search may be permissible under one of the exceptions mentioned above. By consenting to a search, you will undermine the Fourth Amendment protections you have under the constitution.
My Phone Was Illegally Searched — What Happens Now?
Unfortunately, despite clear legal protections for cell phones, some police officers still cross the line. Illegal cellphone searches are and will continue to be a problem in Texas. If your phone was unlawfully searched by the police, you should call a Galveston criminal defense attorney right away. You have legal remedies available. Do not try to physically stop an officer from going through your phone yourself. Doing so will almost certainly result in additional charges being placed on you by the officer.
Instead, your remedies are best exercised in the courtroom. A lawyer can file a motion to suppress any and all illegally obtained evidence. Evidence that comes out of an illegal search or an illegal seizure can be and should be excluded from a criminal trial against you. Without the illegally obtained evidence, the prosecution’s entire case may fall apart or come up short. Furthermore, in some situations, criminal charges could be completely dropped simply because without the illegally obtained evidence, the State now lacks the admissible evidence which is essential to move forward.
Call Our Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer for Immediate Legal Help
Mark A. Diaz is an aggressive, effective, and reliable criminal defense attorney. Our law firm will protect your rights. If you have any questions about cell phones and police searches, we are more than ready to help. For a free case evaluation, please contact our Galveston office now. We defend people throughout all Southeast Texas, including Galveston, Texas City, La Marque, League City, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, Clear Lake, Pearland, Pasadena, Baytown, Sugar Land, and Houston.