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Q. Can the police search my cell phone?
What are my rights?
A. If you are placed under arrest, do the police have the legal authority to search your cell phone?
The answer is that the cell phone is considered as container within the law and if it is on your person or
within your reach they can legally look into your email, texts and your contact list to investigate for
criminal activity. A more complicated question is: If the phone is password protected, do they have
the authority to try and crack the code or compel you to give them the code? The answer to the first
question is: Yes, they can make some limited attempt to crack the code but that cannot go on for hours
or days. The answer to the second question is: They have no ability to compel you to give them the
code. They will try to make you think that you have a duty to give them the code because you are
under arrest. Under the Fifth Amendment you have the absolute right to remain silent which includes
giving up the code. If you give it to them you are going to waive any chance you have to attack the
search in court and suppress any of that evidence. Don’t do it.

Atty. John A. Birdsall
Birdsall Law Offices SC
135 W Wells St Ste 214
Milwaukee, WI 53203-1807


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