A re-occurring issue that defense and civil rights attorneys often encounter involves privacy and property interests at the time of arrest. Specifically, it pertains to police access to your cell phone and its data.
A person who has been arrested has the right to make three (3) telephone calls without charge. One of the calls can be placed anywhere in the United States or Puerto Rico. A qualified sign language interpreter or telecommunication relay service must be provided if there is an impairment or disability.
Oftentimes, however, telephone numbers are not committed to memory, and are stored in ones’ cellphone. In those cases the officer will request the prisoner to sign a cellular phone information consent form and provide a passcode to allow the officer to retrieve up to three (3) names listed on the consent form.
This is a critical moment in time and one must resist the urge to grant the officer consent. While the consent form limits the officer to retrieve only the names listed on the form, the reality is that there is no oversight to this process. Many officers will not honor the restriction and will conduct an improper search and/or seizure of information stored in the phone.
The moral of the story is to always remember at least two (2) phone numbers of friends/relatives you can count on, rather than risk unlawful police intrusion.