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Your Fourth Amendment rights extend to your electronic devices

If the police suspect you of selling or trafficking drugs, you must be especially careful to preserve your rights against unlawful searches and seizure. While those rights cover your person, your home and your car under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the protections also can extend to the electronic data on your smartphone, computer hard drive and other devices.

To put it simply, if the cops arrive at your doorstep or stop you on the street and ask to search your phone, you have the right to refuse and ask to see the warrant. If they don't have a warrant, they will then need to obtain one before examining your phone. Of course, you should also keep your phone locked to add another layer of security between you and the prying eyes of the law.

Can police get a warrant?

Sure. They may be able to get one. But again, maybe they won't. You can be sure that if they already had an ironclad case against you, they would already have gotten a judge to sign a warrant. You are not obligated to make their jobs any easier, however.

You don't have to answer their questions

This is where suspects frequently get tricked into becoming defendants. They answer police questions, figuring they haven't done anything wrong. But police like to go on "fishing expeditions."

When they stop you, you typically will not immediately know why. Officers begin to ask a series of questions designed to elicit answers they can then use to expand their lines of questioning. You can inadvertently say something that might incriminate you and get you arrested. That's why it's always better to refuse to answer questions or let them into your home.

What if they ignore you and search anyway?

Unfortunately, that happens all too frequently. But their doing so can result in your Minneapolis criminal defense attorney challenging any evidence they discover in that warrantless search.

It should be noted that federal agents at the border do not need a warrant to search electronic devices.

What happens if I refuse consent?

If you don't give your consent to the police, one of two things will happen. They will either let you go or leave, or they will seek a warrant. Then, ask to speak to an attorney before answering any of their questions.

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Joseph S. Friedberg Chartered

701 4th Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: 651-447-6719
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