Can Florida Police Search Your Phone During an Arrest?Published: Nov 10, 2022 by Erika Valcarcel
If you are unsure of your rights when police ask to search your phone, you might do something not legally required for you to do and incriminate yourself in the process.
What Happens During an Arrest in Florida?
Regardless of how they happen, arrests tend to follow the usual pattern. Maybe a vehicle is pulled over for a traffic violation, or someone does something while they are on foot. The police then suspect something due to what they witness, pat down the suspects (if necessary) under the notion of probable cause, make arrests if they find proof of wrongdoing, and book everything into evidence.
What can Police Search in an Arrest?
During this process, an officer might search your car and your pockets, removing things like boxes, packs of cigarettes, gum, mints, or small bags. Police can open these items without a warrant. They can arrest you if they find any illegal items possibly tied to crimes in the area.
Law enforcement agents are allowed to do this because they do not need special permission to search what legally constitutes “containers,” anything used to transport or carry something that might be used in a crime. But not everything is a container.
Why Can’t Police Search My Phone?
The police might find your cellphone during a search and ask you to unlock it. Or, if you have turned off any locking features, they might open it up and start to look through the phone without your consent.
While they may go through your car and pat you down, they can’t search your phone or force you to unlock it without a warrant.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that under the fourth and fifth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, your phone contains large amounts of personal information that can be used against you. With the fourth amendment preventing unlawful searches and seizures and the fifth preventing self-incrimination, the unjust search and seizure of your phone is a civil rights violation.
So, if an officer asks you to unlock the phone, you can refuse and make them get a warrant. However, if you consent, the officer can search it and use anything against you.
Are There Special Circumstances for Searching Phones?
Yes, but they are very specific:
• If the cellphone might be used as a weapon, like if a razor blade was hidden between the phone and its case.
• If the officers are worried that someone might remotely wipe the data off the phone (this can be avoided by turning the phone off or putting it in a special bag that blocks radio waves).
• If there is an emergency where someone’s life might be in danger (warrants for these can be acquired in minutes).
Are There Consequences for an Unlawful Search?
Yes, two things can happen if the police search your phone without a warrant or your permission:
• The Exclusionary Rule — If a court finds that an unreasonable search occurred, any evidence seized cannot be used as direct evidence against the defendant in a criminal prosecution.
• Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine — Not only is evidence from the search inadmissible in court, but also additional evidence that came from the initial evidence.
Turn to a Sarasota, FL Defense Lawyer for Help with Your Defense
Call Sarasota traffic lawyer Erika Valcarcel immediately if your phone was illegally unlocked or searched. Your rights are protected, and Erika has defended clients in situations like yours for years.
Contact her online or call her at (941) 363-7900 to schedule an initial consultation.