Can the LAPD Force You To Unlock Your Phone?

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If you’ve been arrested, it’s very likely that police will try to intimidate you into unlocking your phone so they can get at all the juicy data inside, and use it against you. 

Thanks to the 4th and 5th Amendment, and some hotly contested court cases, they can’t…not easily.

Here’s what you need to know if the police are trying to get into your phone.

You have the right to refuse access to your phone. 

Police can’t even get access to your biometrics without your permission. The United States Court for the Northern District of California ruled that a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric features.

If police officers ignore this ruling and get into your phone by waving it in front of your face or grabbing your hand and forcing it to the screen, be sure to tell your lawyer. A good criminal defense attorney can almost certainly get evidence like that suppressed, and any evidence derived from it, thus gutting a fair amount of whatever case the police are trying to build against you. 

LAPD must have a warrant before breaking into your phone. 

The 2014 case U.S. vs. Wurie set the precedent that says police must have a warrant before they can search a phone, even if they seized the phone during your arrest. An arrest alone isn’t enough to give them permission to try to get into your phone.

There are still exigent circumstances, like there are for a physical search of a home or car. They can try to break into your phone if they believe you’ve found some way to get the data erased remotely, for example. It’s a risk for them as it means a defense attorney can then argue that the exigent circumstances did not apply. 

There are workarounds that LAPD can use.

Once you’ve been arrested it’s probable LAPD can get a warrant to unlock your phone in a few hours. Once they have a warrant you’ll have a decision to make: to cooperate, knowing they will then have access to all of your data, or refuse, knowing new charges may be levied against you.

In many cases refusal might be the best choice, but only you can make this decision. At the very least you will force them to use software tools to get into your phone, and the tools aren’t often up to the challenge. 

LAPD can also subpoena some information from your phone provider. Cell tower ping data and GPS data can be sent over to them, as well as your call logs. All the same, it’s usually better to avoid giving the police any more ammunition to work with. They can twist the smallest fact into their theory of the case and make it harder for a defense lawyer to defend you. 

Call a lawyer immediately! 

As soon as you can do so, you need to call a lawyer. Even if you’re innocent, there is nothing good about police wanting to search your phone. Once you’re arrested, you’re going to be prosecuted for the crime unless we can step in to get the case dropped or dismissed. 

If you or a loved one is in trouble, don’t delay. Call our office today. 

See also:

Wrongful Convictions in Los Angeles, CA

Can the Police Get a Geofencing Warrant in Los Angeles, CA? 

How to Exercise Your 5th Amendment Rights After a Los Angeles Arrest

Can the LAPD Force You To Unlock Your Phone?

inne-rpage-seperator

If you’ve been arrested, it’s very likely that police will try to intimidate you into unlocking your phone so they can get at all the juicy data inside, and use it against you. 

Thanks to the 4th and 5th Amendment, and some hotly contested court cases, they can’t…not easily.

Here’s what you need to know if the police are trying to get into your phone.

You have the right to refuse access to your phone. 

Police can’t even get access to your biometrics without your permission. The United States Court for the Northern District of California ruled that a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric features.

If police officers ignore this ruling and get into your phone by waving it in front of your face or grabbing your hand and forcing it to the screen, be sure to tell your lawyer. A good criminal defense attorney can almost certainly get evidence like that suppressed, and any evidence derived from it, thus gutting a fair amount of whatever case the police are trying to build against you. 

LAPD must have a warrant before breaking into your phone. 

The 2014 case U.S. vs. Wurie set the precedent that says police must have a warrant before they can search a phone, even if they seized the phone during your arrest. An arrest alone isn’t enough to give them permission to try to get into your phone.

There are still exigent circumstances, like there are for a physical search of a home or car. They can try to break into your phone if they believe you’ve found some way to get the data erased remotely, for example. It’s a risk for them as it means a defense attorney can then argue that the exigent circumstances did not apply. 

There are workarounds that LAPD can use.

Once you’ve been arrested it’s probable LAPD can get a warrant to unlock your phone in a few hours. Once they have a warrant you’ll have a decision to make: to cooperate, knowing they will then have access to all of your data, or refuse, knowing new charges may be levied against you.

In many cases refusal might be the best choice, but only you can make this decision. At the very least you will force them to use software tools to get into your phone, and the tools aren’t often up to the challenge. 

LAPD can also subpoena some information from your phone provider. Cell tower ping data and GPS data can be sent over to them, as well as your call logs. All the same, it’s usually better to avoid giving the police any more ammunition to work with. They can twist the smallest fact into their theory of the case and make it harder for a defense lawyer to defend you. 

Call a lawyer immediately! 

As soon as you can do so, you need to call a lawyer. Even if you’re innocent, there is nothing good about police wanting to search your phone. Once you’re arrested, you’re going to be prosecuted for the crime unless we can step in to get the case dropped or dismissed. 

If you or a loved one is in trouble, don’t delay. Call our office today. 

See also:

Wrongful Convictions in Los Angeles, CA

Can the Police Get a Geofencing Warrant in Los Angeles, CA? 

How to Exercise Your 5th Amendment Rights After a Los Angeles Arrest

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