Can Your Phone be Used as Evidence?November 26, 2021
In the vast majority of cases, law enforcement must have a valid search warrant for them to search a cell phone or mobile phone in California. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule:
- Police officers could only search your cell phone if you give them permission or consent to the search.
- The police could likewise search your phone if they are able to demonstrate an immediate necessity to do so, such as pursuing a fleeing suspect, preventing the impending destruction of evidence, and/or helping another person who’s threatened with impending injury or is already seriously injured.
- Even if the police cannot search your cell phone without a search warrant, they could seize it if you’re under arrest and keep it until they can secure a search warrant.
It is also very crucial to note that if the police searched a phone without a valid warrant prior to June 25, 2014, while the alleged suspect was under arrest, the prosecution could probably use the evidence found in the phone against the suspect. The reason for this is that before that date, California law held that cell phone searches without valid warrants but while a suspect was under arrest were legal.
Can Evidence from Illegal Cell Phone Searches be Suppressed?
If the police search your cell phone without a legal justification or a valid search warrant, then they might not utilize evidence that they found in your phone against you during a criminal trial. This is called the exclusionary rule.
To illustrate, let’s say, for instance, that Tom, a detective under the department’s drug unit, requests a judge to grant a search warrant to obtain and search Jerry’s phone and another warrant to arrest him on drug charges. The judge grants both warrants but specifically states that the search warrant for Jerry’s phone must be tied to evidence of Jerry’s drug-related activities.
But when Tom and his team arrested Jerry and obtained his cell phone, they failed to find evidence of drug-related activities. They do, however, find images of child pornography and messages to underage minors. But since the search warrant specified evidence of drug-related activities, Tom can’t use the images and messages they found to build a child pornography case against Jerry since they’re not the type of evidence stated in the warrant.
The exclusionary rule has its roots in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which provides that everyone is protected against unreasonable seizures and searches by law enforcement officers. This is particularly crucial when it comes to phones because most people today use smartphones that could literally chronicle their daily lives.
Talk to a Trusted Ventura Criminal Defense Attorney Today
For any questions about mobile phone or cell phone searches or if the alleged evidence found on your phone can be used against you in court, call Bamieh & De Smeth at 805-643-5555 or contact us online. You can learn more about your case and how our Ventura criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges against you.