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When can law enforcement search my phone?

An encounter with police can be intimidating. On the one hand, you do not want the situation to escalate, but you also want to stand up for your rights.

Now that phones carry an increasing amount of personal information, it can be intimidating when an officer asks to look at your phone. Even if your phone does not have information about a crime, you may feel nervous about information an officer could interpret incorrectly.

Here’s what you should know about when police can search your phone.

You don’t have to say yes

The most important rule you need to keep in mind is that you do not have to agree to a search. When you agree to a search, the officer no longer needs to present a warrant.

Often, police will ask to see your phone hoping that you will say yes. If the officer asks to see your phone, you can politely ask to talk to a lawyer or ask if they have a warrant.

They need a warrant

In some situations, officers can conduct searches with probable cause alone. These cases typically apply to searches of automobiles or a pat-down search to determine if you have a dangerous weapon or an illegal substance.

These rules do not apply to cell phones. In 2014, an Ohio Supreme Court case addressed the issue. In the case, the Court determined that officers must have a warrant before searching data stored on a cell phone seized during a lawful arrest.

Dealing with police is a vulnerable moment where it can feel like there are no right answers. It is essential to state that you want to talk to an attorney who can help you advocate for your rights.