These days, almost everyone carries a powerful little computer right in their pocket: Their smartphone. Since so much of modern life is carried out via digital means, people naturally want to keep their phones private. In particular, you don’t want the authorities peeking at the pictures, messages or history files on your phone without your permission.
Do you really have any option?
Honestly, probably not. While you do have a Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the reality is that government authorities are increasingly able to access all kinds of digital data without consent. All they need is the right warrant or court order to do it — and those aren’t terribly hard for the police to obtain. If you’re being investigated for the sexual exploitation of a minor, you can expect that the police will provide enough evidence to convince a judge that a warrant is needed.
Data that is stored in a digital cloud is particularly accessible to the authorities, so long as they have the paperwork required. Many social media giants, including Facebook, Twitter and others, will happily comply with an official search warrant.
Even the data confined to your smartphone can be obtained with the right methods, however. Never assume that keeping your data close and putting a password on your device will prevent the police from gaining access. The law is murky, right now, on exactly what the police can compel you to do, but several states have already forced defendants to give up their passcodes — and others are considering it.
If you’re accused of having child pornography or you are concerned about an investigation that may be leading to charges, talk to an experienced defense attorney — fast. You need to be proactive about protecting your rights and your future.