When can the police seize your cell phone without a warrant? This is a legitimate concern especially if your cell phone contains incriminating information that can be used to prosecute you. The warrantless seizure of a cell phone is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment unless the seizure falls within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement.
The first exception is called the plain view exception. The police are permitted to seize a cell phone without a warrant if it is in plain view and the police are legitimately in a location to view the cell phone. If, for example, the police come to your house with an arrest warrant and find your cell phone next to the bed where you are found sleeping, the police are legitimately in a location to view the cell phone, assuming the arrest warrant is valid. Secondly, the police must have probable cause to believe that the cell phone contains incriminating evidence. The police usually rely on their prior investigation to develop probable cause for the seizure. For example, if the police have knowledge that the phone was used to send an incriminating text message to a co-defendant, probable cause for the seizure can be established. The rationale behind the plain view exception is to avoid the possible destruction of evidence that could take place if the police were required to obtain a search warrant before seizing the phone.
The second exception to the search warrant requirement for the seizure of a cell phone is known as the search incident to arrest.When a person is lawfully arrested, the police are authorized to search the person for evidence of a crime and to also search the area within the persons reach where he may grab a weapon or destroy evidence of a crime. If your cell phone is found on your person or within your immediate area, the police are allowed to seize the phone without a warrant if they believe it may contain evidence of a crime.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, call Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Robert J. Shane for the “Best Defense.” Mr. Shane has close to 30 years of criminal defense experience and a winning record. Call now at (612) 339-1024 or visit his website at www.criminallawyerminnesota.com.