Your cell phone stores vast amounts of personal information, pictures, passwords, financial dates, employment history, medical history and sensitive correspondences. This information is private and you do not want to share it with the government. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches from the government. The Fourth Amendment applies not only to your body and your home, but it also provides privacy protection to your cellphone, notebook and home computer.
The easiest way the police can search your phone is if you let them. Do not consent to the police request to search your phone. Do not provide the police with passwords. Do not believe the police officer when he threatens to get a warrant. This threat is illegal. The police have the authority “to apply” for the application for a warrant. This process takes time, which will allow you to contact an attorney. Remember the police do not need a warrant if you consent to their request to see your phone. Once the police arrest you, they can search your person and anything within your immediate control. “Within your immediate control,” means if you are arrested on a car traffic stop the police can search your car. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this exception does not allow police to search your cell phone. In Riley v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police must get a search warrant before they can search a suspect’s cell phone after an arrest. Chief Judge John Robert held:
“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. They contain the privacies of life.”
You should use a password to access your phone instead of finger print access. Courts are less inclined to protect fingerprint access than forcing you to reveal your password.