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Is it Legal for the Police to Search Your Cell Phone Without Permission in Fort Collins, Colorado?

If you’re arrested or detained in Fort Collins and the police ask to search your phone, say no. Here’s why. 

You Have Rights

It’s rare to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have your cell phone on you these days, so it would only make sense that it would be nearby if you’ve been pulled over, stopped or arrested. No doubt, on that phone is a plethora of information about you and your life, including texts, photos, search histories and more. These things could, possibly, implicate you in something criminal and you could be convicted based on the information on your phone. 

Lucky for us all, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution places limits on how, when, and why Colorado police can search our things. This means that if Fort Collins police accessed your cell phone data without a warrant or other legal permission first, a strong criminal defense attorney will, most likely, be able to get a judge to rule that any evidence found on your phone is not admissible.

Warrants are Typically Needed to Search a Cell Phone

The Supreme Court maintains that police do have the right to pat-down or search suspects in custody. This is in order to prevent destruction of evidence and ensure the safety of everyone involved. This means that they may take possession of everything on your person, including cell phones. However, just because they have it does not mean they can search it. You are not required to let them do that. 

Per the opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court denied an argument that the officers safety justifies warrantless phone searches because, “once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats…, data on the phone can endanger no one.”

Even When There is a Warrant, It’s Not a Free-For-All

When police or prosecutors request a Fort Collins judge issues a search warrant, they have to give a specific reason they’re asking, why a search warrant would be necessary, and an explanation of what they’re specifically looking for. For example, if they obtain a search warrant for your home stating they are looking for assault weapons, they can’t be looking through your medicine cabinets and jewelry boxes.

The Colorado Supreme Court has placed similar limits on cell phone warrants, ruling that it violates the Fourth Amendment if a warrant or search reaches beyond information pertinent to the alleged offense.

Consent Means They Don’t Need a Warrant

If you are detained in Fort Collins and the police ask to search your cell phone, tell them no. If you consent, you are giving them explicit permission to go through the phone and a warrant isn’t required. 

In agreeing to let the police search your phone, you’ve waived your right to challenge any legal and constitutional validity of that search. This could also remove your ability to challenge admissibility of anything criminal they find in the search. 

Instead of agreeing to letting them search your phone, contact a top criminal defense attorney in Fort Collins as soon as possible. We’re here to protect your rights and keep you from making mistakes that could hinder your fight against criminal charges. Contact Schwartz Waible & Esser today to find out your rights. 

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Fort Collins, CO 80524


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