Maybe a police officer stops you on the side of the street because they claim you look like someone for whom there is an active arrest warrant related to drugs. Perhaps a police officer pulls you over and accuses you of impaired driving or possibly transporting illegal substances.
Seemingly innocent details, like the presence of sandwich baggies or a postage scale in your car, could end up helping that officer build a drug case against you. They will also likely look for evidence anywhere they can gather it, including on your digital devices. Police officers often ask people to hand over their phones during an arrest.
If you have your phone on your person at the time of your arrest, can the police just go through it because they suspect you of drug crimes?
The police need permission or a warrant to search
Technically, you have the right to an expectation of privacy when it comes to your communication devices. Without your permission, the police would typically need a warrant to go through your messages, photos and usage records stored on your phone.
The police can get official data records
While the information stored on your device may have some protection under the Fourth Amendment based on a ruling by the Supreme Court, the information regarding your use of cellular service or different apps, like social media platforms, can also help the police build a case. Police officers can frequently obtain records directly from network providers and software companies related to your use of a device.
Occasionally, police officers will do something questionable or illegal to gather evidence from someone’s phone or another location. When you have reason to believe that officers have violated your rights, those concerns could very well influence your court strategy.
If you can show that there was illegal conduct leading up to the discovery of certain information on your devices, a defense attorney may be able to convince the courts to exclude that evidence from the prosecutor’s case against you. Learning more about the rules that protect you from police searches will help you better plan a criminal defense strategy when accused of some kind of drug charge.