Police and other law enforcement officers are increasingly asking people to turn over their cell phones, whether in the course of a traffic stop, after a motor vehicle collision or in the course of investigating the crime. A record number of people in America now have smartphones – nearly 80 percent according to Pew Research Center, which further noted among 18-to-29-olds, smart phone ownership exceeded 92 percent.
It should be obvious why investigators want to get their hands on these devices: They are a treasure trove of information and can make their jobs a whole lot easier. It’s hard to imagine even just a few short years ago, cell phones were solely verbal and texting communication devices. Now, they contain scores of sensitive and personal information, including calendars, emails, personal and professional contacts, music files, verification of recent purchases, bank records, public social media engagement (including personal messages) work files, browser history of recent websites and of course saved photos and videos. This is not information you want – or usually that they never need – to see.
As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm can explain, the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. There are numerous reasons why cell phone information should remain private – not the least of which for a potential defendant is the fact that it could give police and prosecutors key evidence against you. But even if you have nothing to hide, it’s generally unwise to simply hand your phone over on request. Plus – you aren’t required to do so unless the officer has a warrant. Continue reading