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Can the Police Search My Cellphone if I am Arrested in Waldorf, Maryland?

If you have been arrested by law enforcement officials in Charles County, Maryland, the police are allowed to seize all of your personal property, including your wallet or purse, keys, and your cellphone. This is standard procedure and is lawful. Generally, this is called “inventorying” of an accused, and the police have an obligation to keep all personal property seized in a safe and secure manner separate from property taken from some other person.

Now the question becomes, after taking your cellphone, can the police search it? The answer is a bit complicated as we explain below. If you have been arrested and the police now have your phone, you need a consultation with experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys. Call us here at the Law Office of Robert Castro at (301) 705-5137. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

There are four lawful methods for law enforcement officials to search your cellphone. These are:

  • You consented to the search — do NOT do this
  • The police obtain a search warrant from a Maryland criminal court judge
  • An emergency of some sort where a search of your cellphone cannot wait until a warrant is issued by a judge
  • Evidence contained on the phone is at risk of being immediately lost or destroyed

Note that if the police search the contents of your cellphone unlawfully, this violation of your constitutionally protected rights can be the basis for having your case dismissed, having evidence excluded from use at your trial, or having any conviction overturned by a court of appeals.

The first two lawful methods are the most common circumstances where the police search the contents of a cellphone after arrest. As noted, if you give your consent, the search is lawful. As also noted, DO NOT consent. The police may be “tricky” about asking and might say something like: “I’m going to look here at your phone. Is that okay?” If you say, “yes” or “sure,” that is consent. DO NOT say anything like that. Say, “NO.”

The second method involves asking a Maryland criminal court judge for a warrant. A “warrant” is a fancy legal term meaning that the police are asking the judge for permission to search a phone. One reason to immediately hire excellent Maryland criminal defense attorneys is to object to any request for a warrant to search the phone. Law enforcement officials must have a good reason for searching the content of your cellphone. With a dedicated criminal defense team, we can object to the warrant being issued and/or limit the scope of the search.

The other two situations are rare. For example, other than something like kidnapping or terrorism, it is hard to think of an emergency that would require an immediate need to search a cellphone before obtaining a warrant. Likewise, with the final method. The contents of a cellphone remain on the cellphone unless deleted. But a person must have the phone itself to engage the delete functions. Since the police officers have physical possession of the phone, there can be no danger of loss or destruction of the contents of the phone.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD, 20601.