In today’s digital age, criminal defense lawyers are increasingly faced with the need to defend their clients’ rights to privacy in terms of computer and phone searches.
Although you can have your phone or computer confiscated and used to collect evidence, defense attorneys stress that this can only be done under certain circumstances and must follow a specific procedure.
Therefore, it is extremely important to understand how search and seizure laws apply to your personal devices and why you might need the assistance of a defense lawyer if yours is not properly confiscated.
Your Privacy Is Protected Under the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment upholds your right to privacy and protects you against unlawful searches and seizure of your property.
Defense attorneys point out that without a warrant, any evidence obtained through an unwarranted search or seizure is inadmissible against you, which includes information obtained by searching your computer or phone.
As to the Fourth Amendment and how it applies to your digital devices, many people do not realize that the information on those devices is protected just like any other property you own.
Computers and Digital Devices
Whether you are in your car or home, criminal defense lawyers point out that you are not required to hand over your personal property or undergo any type of search, physical or otherwise, without your consent unless a warrant has been issued.
In terms of your digital devices, a police officer may ask you for your passwords to access data on your phone or computer; however, you are not required to provide that information.
You can also exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when questioned about your devices and the data contained on them.
Even if a police officer seizes your device, defense lawyers emphasize that it cannot be searched legally without a warrant being issued to do so and a warrant can only be issued if there is just or probable cause to do so which usually requires some proof or significant reason to believe you have been involved in a crime.
What Happens If Your Computer Is Taken?
Devices confiscated legally can be held as evidence; however, unless there was a warrant, you are entitled to the return of your device without having to reveal what it contains.
Your devices could also be confiscated in other circumstances, such as if someone else provides access, you are at an international border, or there is probable cause to suspect there any incriminating evidence on your device could be destroyed, all of which can be challenged by a defense attorney in court if no warrant has been issued.
Contact A Criminal Defense Lawyer Who Can Help
If you thing you have been illegally searched or your computer, phone, or other device was seized unlawfully, contact a defense lawyer immediately to file a motion in court to request that your property be returned to you.
Because the interpretation of search and seizure laws is difficult, especially regarding computers and phones, seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can defend your Fourth Amendment rights and ensure that only legally obtained evidence is used in court.
You are not required to provide passwords or anything similar unless the proper legal channels have been followed to obtain that information from you!
Reynaldo Garza, III
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520