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Cellphone searches in Maryland

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

A cellphone is more than just a technological convenience; today, people use them for almost everything, some of which are very private and important. For that reason, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement personnel must get a warrant to look through a person’s phone. However, there may be instances where they would go through your phone and use the unrelated evidence they find there against you in Mayland courts.

Cellphone searches in Maryland

All American citizens have the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This means that the police cannot search your person or your property without a warrant or probable cause.

Special circumstances in court proceedings

In the 2014 case of Riley v. California, the Supreme Court held that police officers must obtain a warrant before searching a person’s cell phone. However, they were not clear on the limit of what the police can access on a person’s phone. For example, in the recent case of United States v. Morton, the Fifth Circuit gave the police unlimited ability to search a person’s phone if they are suspected of a crime.

In Maryland, there are additional limitations on what the police can do with cell phones. In 2022, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Richardson v. state that it was impermissibly broad for police officers to search everything on a cell phone. It violated the constitutional right to privacy. Further, the judges argued that officers rarely, if ever, can demonstrate probable cause to search an entire cell phone.

What to do when a police officer searches your phone in Maryland

If the police ever stop you and they ask to search your cell phone, you have the right to refuse. If the police officer does not have a warrant, they should not be able to search your phone. If they violated your right and went through your phone, your criminal defense attorney can use that as a defense to have the court dismiss any evidence the officers obtained through that illegal search.

Even though you can fight against an illegal search of your cell phone, having the court dismiss your charges is not always a guarantee. From the recent cases discussed above, you can see that the Federal and Maryland courts are not on the same page when it comes to the scope of cell phone searches.