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Can the police search my cell phone?

Cellphones have become an integral part of everyday life for millions of Americans. Cellphones are used for myriad reasons—including criminal activity. Sometimes, the police may need to search the contents of someone’s phone.

However, South Carolina authorities cannot simply grab your cell and search it whenever they wish: They must follow certain regulations. You have certain rights regarding your phone and your privacy. If you are ever in a situation in which the police claim that they need to search your phone, you should understand your rights.

Understanding the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. This means that the police or other authorities cannot search or tap your phone without a warrant. If a cop demands to go through your phone, you do not have to comply unless they have a court-issued warrant. If a cop arrests you, they may confiscate your phone—but they cannot search it without a warrant.

Cops can get information from third parties

However, you do not have as many rights when it comes to information that you knowingly share with a third party. This includes your cell phone company or someone with whom you use your phone to communicate. Cops do not need a warrant to obtain this information. For example, if you send incriminating texts to someone, the police can legally view them on the other person’s phone.

This doctrine also applies to information that you transmit by making phone calls, using GPS or saving data to the cloud. The police can obtain information about your phone activity using this information.

Cellphones can be tricky legal territory

Our country’s laws regarding cellphones do not always move as quickly as technology does. Some laws still lag behind the times. As such, there are still murky areas regarding the search and seizure of cellphones. Sometimes, defendants need legal counsel to protect their rights.

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Doughty Law Firm, LLC
6650 Rivers Ave
North Charleston, SC 29406

Phone: 843-501-9342
Fax: 843-576-5401
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