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Can The Police Search Your Cellphone Without A Warrant?

In the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dated February 29, 2012, famed jurist Richard Posner goes cutting edge on the Fourth Amendment and comes out with a unique answer to the limits of police search of a cellphone. The short answer to the question, “Can the police search your cellphone without a warrant?” is yes, to get the phone number.

The details of the case are here but here is a snapshot: “Officers arrested Santana-Cabrera in the garage and Flores-Lopez in front of it. Officers searched Flores-Lopez and his truck, and seized three cell phones, two of which he disclaimed. At the scene, an officer searched each cell phone for its telephone number, which the government later used to subpoena each phone’s call history.”

Read the 7th Circuit’s opinion here, but what is also interesting is that Posner goes to the cutting edge of cell phone spoofing and hacking in great detail  – even including a news article from the 25th of February on how people switch SIM cards to keep from getting tracked —  in his opinion of the 29th of February. The article appeared in GAWKER (the infamous Internet site whose motto is “Today’s Gossip Is Tomorrow’s News.) The author Adrian Chen is also well-known for breaking news stories in the tech industry including his receipt and reporting of the infamous “lost” iPhone prototype.

As a Seattle criminal defense lawyer with expertise in federal drug cases and other major felonies, John Crowley stays abreast of changes in the law and trends in criminal law jurisprudence to help defend his clients accused of serious crimes to the fullest extent.