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Can Police Search Your Cell Phone | Search and Seizure

Is it Legal For Police to Search Your Cell Phone?

Cell phones contain all the details of our lives in text, images, account numbers, and more. You should always be wary of a police search of your cell phone. As an item of personal property, cell phones are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but that does not mean cell phones can never be searched. In some cases, it is perfectly legal for police to search your cell phone.

Fourth Amendment Protections

The Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and allows searches only if the law enforcement agency has a warrant or you give consent. Since your cell phone likely contains very personal and private information, it is no surprise that many people are reluctant to allow a police search of the phone. Not only is there a chance of confidential information being seen or exposed, if an officer sees something on your phone, it could create an opportunity for the police to search other property like your home or car.

If a police officer asks to see your cell phone, you can and should ask to see their search warrant. Your phone is your property, much like your home and just like your home, police need a warrant to search it. Even if you are arrested, your phone cannot be searched without a warrant.

When Can Police Search Your Cell Phone?

Although you do have Fourth Amendment rights protecting your cell phone, there are times when it is legal for police to search your cell phone without a warrant.

  1. You gave the officer consent to search the phone.
  2. It is an emergency situation that makes the officer believe that the evidence is in danger of being destroyed.
  3. The officer needs to search the phone because people are in immediate danger.
  4. The officer can see evidence on your phone in plain view, which qualifies as probable cause.

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney If Police Want To Search Your Cell Phone

If you have been arrested, if your cell phone has been searched, or if the police ask to search your cell phone, your first call should be to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will help ensure your rights are protected from the very start and that you don’t unintentionally make your situation worse by providing police with evidence accidentally.

Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Eisenberg Law Offices for representation and advice. We represent clients throughout Wisconsin and offer free consultations. Arrange your free consultation by calling 608-256-8356 or emailing