The Law Office of James Davis, P.A.

Why You Should Never Consent to a Search of Your Cell Phone

David Riley was stopped by law enforcement for an expired registration. Officers soon learned that Riley’s driver’s license was suspended, which gave them cause to arrest him and impound his car. During a routine inventory search of the car, guns were found which led to various criminal charges against Riley for the weapons. Officers did a pat down search of Riley incident to his arrest and found a cell phone in his pants pocket. They seized the phone and, without a warrant, they accessed data on the phone. They found evidence which led them to file even more charges against Riley who was subsequently convicted.

Riley appealed his conviction, arguing that the data on his phone was seized without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, any evidence accumulated as a result of the warrantless search should be suppressed. The California state courts ruled against Riley.

In June 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously agreed with Riley. The Court said that officers can inspect a cell phone to see if it is safe and, for example, to see if contains a razor blade. But, officers may not access any data on the phone unless they have a warrant or consent of the owner. This legal ruling applies to Florida and all other states.

Why You Should Not Consent to a Search of Your Cell Phone

If officers arrest you for any reason, they may confiscate your cell phone, but since the Supreme Court ruling, they cannot legally access your data without a warrant or your consent. They will ask you for consent to access data and will likely imply you do not have a choice. You may give consent, thinking you have nothing to hide. But, it is important that you do not give consent.

Law enforcement has a talent for finding data and associating it with criminal activity. If you do not give consent, your attorney may file a motion to suppress the evidence. If you give consent, your attorney has no legal argument to request that the evidence be suppressed.
If you were arrested and your cell phone confiscated, whether you gave consent or not, you need the assistance of a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer. Contact James Davis at the Law Office of James Davis, P.A.