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Can police look at a cellphone without a warrant?

Police officers who are making an arrest can pat you down and look for weapons, as this is something courts have deemed necessary for the protection of the officers. However, have you ever wondered how far they can go? If they find a cellphone while patting you down, can they search through it?

The answer is no. The police are not allowed to look through your cellphone without your permission, perhaps looking for evidence that will incriminate you. The only way that they can legally do this is by getting a warrant that allows them to search the phone. Without a warrant, they have no right to invade your privacy.

This doesn't mean the phone is off limits. There are stories of people who have been arrested after willfully showing their phones to officers. One man was trying to talk his way out of an arrest, and he showed the officer his text message history to prove where he was going. When he did that, he accidentally showed the officer other messages in which he was talking about buying drugs.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that police still do need a warrant to search through your phone on their own. The Supreme Court was not even split on the issue when it voted, unanimously agreeing that warrants were needed for phones the same way that they're needed to search through a home.

If your rights have been violated because officers decided to look at your phone without a warrant, you need to know how this may help your criminal defense strategy in Maryland.

Source: CNN, "Supreme Court: Police need warrant to search cell phones," Bill Mears, accessed Jan. 27, 2016

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