In: Criminal Defense

Can the Texas Police Take My Phone and Search it?

If a police officer asks to search your cell phone, you are not required to comply with the request, nor are you required to let the officer take your phone. The only exception is if the law enforcement officer shows you a valid search warrant.

When you refuse to let the police take your phone and search it, you may face pressure from the officer. In some cases, the officer may use an invalid search warrant, lie to you, or even use force in an attempt to take your phone.

However, you should stand firm if there is no valid search warrant or exigent circumstances. Even if the officer takes your cell phone to search it, any evidence found on your phone resulting from an illegal search can be suppressed by an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.

Contact our Lewisville criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC, to discuss your defense strategies if the police took and searched your phone in Texas.

The police need a warrant to take and search your phone

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures of their property, including cell phones, by law enforcement. It means that the police must have a valid search warrant to search your person, vehicle, home, phone, or any other property.

The only exception to the warrant requirement is the presence of “exigent circumstances” such as:

  • There is an immediate risk that the evidence could be destroyed;
  • You are driving and automobile and an officer has probable cause to search,
  • The officer is in pursuit of a suspect fleeing them; or
  • Someone is in imminent danger of injury or death.

When any of the exigent circumstances exists, the police officer must have probable cause to search your cell phone without a warrant.

Note: Another exception to the warrant requirement is when you consent to a search without a warrant, but doing so is not recommended even if you have no incriminating information on your phone.

Can the police search your phone without a warrant if you were arrested?

If you have been arrested, Art 1, Sec 9 of the Texas Constitution protects you from unreasonable seizures and searches when there is no warrant or probable cause to search your phone or other possessions supported by oath or affirmation.

However, the police officer may require you to empty your pockets and search the outside of your clothes after an arrest. In 2012, the Court of Appeals of Texas held that persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy that prevents law enforcement from taking their phone and searching its contents (State v. Granville, 373 S.W.3d 218). The police cannot search or look through your cell phone if:

  • The contents of your phone are not related to the reason for your arrest;
  • There is no valid search warrant; and
  • There are no exigent circumstances.

Often, when the police ask to search your phone or other possessions, you might feel pressured to say “Yes.” However, you have a right to refuse to have your phone searched by law enforcement if there is no search warrant or exigent circumstances.

Speak with our experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys well-versed in search warrants to protect your rights and freedom. Do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC, if the police took and searched your phone without your permission, search warrant, and exigent circumstances. Call (940) 222-2488.