A significant number of Americans rely on their cell phones for personal and professional reasons.

So, it’s inevitable that the information contained on these devices could have implications in a criminal case.

However, can police take your phone without a warrant? The question is a common one, but the answer is far from simple.

A knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense attorney can advise you on how the laws apply to your case, but an overview may be helpful.

Fourth Amendment Protections

Both the US Constitution and Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the State of Colorado safeguard you against unlawful searches and seizures by public officials.

Before police can take your phone or look at what’s stored within it, they need to obtain a warrant that’s signed by a judge. The warrant must have support from probable cause. So, it must state the reasons why searching and seizing your phone is necessary for evidence.

Over the years, many federal and state
courts have interpreted these constitutional protections. Some decisions have
carved out exceptions to the requirement of obtaining a warrant, allowing
police to search and seize property under certain circumstances.

Search Versus Seizure

In one notable case before the US Supreme Court, the Justices found that seizure of property pending issuance of a warrant was a lawful act by police.

SCOTUS determined that officers can take personal property – such as a cell phone – and hold it while they await a search warrant. Therefore, when you allege that “police took my phone for evidence,” it may be a proper, lawful act.

The key is recognizing the distinction between a search and seizure. Officers can take your phone when they have probable cause that it holds evidence of a crime, but they cannot search it if they don’t yet have a warrant.

However, there must be exigent, urgent circumstances involved to justify this type of exception to the warrant requirement.

Strategies for Defending Criminal Charges After Civil Rights Violations

Regardless of whether police were right in taking your cell phone, you’re now in a serious predicament. They may have violated your civil rights, but officers now have key evidence that could convict you of a crime.

Fortunately, your constitutional rights are a serious matter in criminal law, so you have options to have this information tossed out of court. The process is called a motion to suppress, which is a formal request to have the judge exclude any evidence that was obtained through unlawful methods – such as an illegal search and/or seizure of your phone.

Consult with an Experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer About
Your Case

Hopefully, this information provides an answer to a common question: “Can police take your cell phone without a warrant?” Still, a general overview is no substitute for the in-depth legal knowledge a Colorado criminal defense attorney can provide.

Plus, there are many subtleties of the law that apply to your specific circumstances. To learn more about your rights and options for tossing out illegally obtained evidence, please contact Miller Leonard, PC to schedule a consultation at our Golden, CO office.


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