The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens and criminal suspects from unreasonable searches of their property and persons. While law enforcement agencies must apply for a search warrant before conducting a search of the person or premise in issue, the “plain view” doctrine permits the search, seizure, and use of evidence obtained without a search warrant when such evidence was plainly perceptible in the course of lawful procedure and the police had probable cause to believe it was incriminating. So, if the police can search any containers in an immediate arrest area, can they also search a cell phone? The Supreme Court says “no,” because, unlike ordinary containers, cell phones contain digital material that is vast and personal.
Keep in mind that an officer is permitted to conduct a frisk, in which an individual’s clothing is patted down, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver or passengers are armed or otherwise pose a threat. The purpose of the frisk is to ensure the officer’s safety; it is not considered a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. For this or any other legal issue, please call LEBHERZ & LEBHERZ, Attorneys at Law, at (508) 548-6600 to make an appointment. Our office is at Old Bailey Court, 99 Town Hall Square.