Can Police Officers Tap Your Phone Without a Warrant?
Cell phone privacy has long been an issue in the US. A phone can feature a lot of personal, even some self-incriminating information. In such instances, questions arise about the ability of police officers to access phone data during criminal investigations.
Do Arizona law enforcement professionals need a warrant to check your phone or go through records? Are you protected in any way from such a privacy intrusion?
Arizona Laws and Phone Data
Arizona accepted a new law in the summer of 2017. The aim of the law was to prevent warrantless spying or the tracking of electronic communication methods.
Through the new law, Arizona blocked the use of the so-called stingrays. Stingrays are cell site stimulators. Reminiscent of cell phone tower operations, these devices make mobile devices in the vicinities connect to them. This way, law enforcement professionals can track the device and also access its content (for example – listen to phone conversations).
As per the new Arizona law, police officers need to secure a warrant before tracking a phone or accessing its content without the permission of the device’s owner. Probable cause will have to be established in advance for the search warrant to be secured.
This law affects both Arizona police investigations and federal surveillance programs.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Warrantless phone searches and tracking violate individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The establishment of probable cause before a search takes place eliminates the unreasonable aspect of the procedure, in which case Fourth Amendment rights aren’t violated.
Tapping into one’s phone is usually a very invasive procedure that gives law enforcement professionals access to highly personal data. Thus, to obtain a warrant, police officers will be held to a higher standard when it comes to the establishment of probable cause.
What exactly does this mean for you as an Arizona resident?
If police officers stop you on the street, they have no right to take your phone or look at its content without a warrant. The same applies to tapping into your phone or tracking your location on the basis of cell phone data.
A police officer could ask to see your phone, even if such an action isn’t necessary. When this happens, you have the right to politely ask for a search warrant and refuse turning over your mobile device.
Can a Warrantless Phone Search Occur?
Tapping into one’s phone or seizing the device without a search warrant could be possible under a very restricted set of circumstances.
A police officer, for example, could take the cell phone whenever there’s a risk of vital information being erased from the device. Proving such a threat, however, isn’t necessarily an easy task.
Generally speaking, warrantless searches and seizures can occur solely in the case of urgent matters.
Police officers don’t need a warrant whenever the person consents to the search and seizure. This is the one reason you should never agree to a phone search. In this instance, you’re waiving your right to privacy and you’re enabling law enforcement professionals to use the information they find against you.
As you can see, the state of Arizona is committed to protecting your privacy. Just because a police officer suspects criminal activity does not mean they’ll have immediate access to your phone or another electronic device.
Even if you’re being investigated for a crime, you should refrain from panicking. Know your rights. If you have to, talk to an Arizona criminal defense attorney to learn what you can and cannot do under the circumstances. As a general rule of thumb, however, you should remember that your cell phone is 100 percent protected from tapping until a search warrant is issued.
Click here to find out what is criminal diversion in Arizona.