Search and Seizure

Do Police Need A Warrant to Search My Cell Phone?

Criminal Defense | Search and Seizure



The United States Constitution provides protections in the Bill of the Rights. In particular, the Fourth Amendment provides for the protection of privacy from intrusions or searches from the government. The amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Do we have an expectation of privacy to our cell phones? Most people have a password to prevent others from accessing their cell phone. So yes, I would say that we do have an expectation of privacy to our cell phones. With the current cell phones that we all use, they are the virtual equivalent of our desktops.

In a landmark decision in Riley v. California, the United States Supreme Court held unanimously that the warrantless search and seizure of digital contents of a  cell phone during an arrest is unconstitutional. In order to obtain a warrant, the police must have probable cause. In order to have probable cause the police must articulate why they believe that the search will uncover criminal activity or contraband. They must have legally sufficient reasons to believe a search is necessary.


Courts enforce the Fourth Amendment through the use of the exclusionary rule. If evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment then a judge can rule that it is excluded or inadmissible in court. In other words, if the police violate a person’s rights’ by conducting an illegal search without probable cause, then the evidence cannot be used against the accused. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence to have the evidence excluded. This often leads to dismissals. Without evidence the government cannot secure convictions.

However, the police can obtain information from a cell phone without a warrant or without obtaining your phone. One of the most common tactics is to subpoena cell phone records from a suspect’s cell phone provider. The cell phone records can help the police determine who the suspect is talking to and when the calls are made. Further, the state may seek cell phone locations to determine where a suspect may have been. These records  do not determine guilt or innocence and should be vigorously contested. A skilled lawyer can defend your rights and develop a winning defense.

If you or someone you know has been the subject of a possible illegal search or seizure, you are in need of an experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney. Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid has the experience to help. Contact his office today at (713) 877-9400.

Attorney Madrid on Felony & Misdemeanor Drug Cases

Criminal Defense | Drugs | Search and Seizure | Video Q & A

Whether you’ve been charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana or arrested for a major cocaine distribution conspiracy, it helps to have an experienced Houston drug crimes lawyer with a résumé including 1000’s of drug cases on your side.

Do you trust the government?

I didn’t think so.

This is why it’s very important that we have criminal defense attorneys otherwise everyone would be guilty at arrest, as charged. Police make mistakes all the time, and only a lawyer with 10’s of thousands of hours of experience dissecting arrest reports in contrast with witness testimony and evidence under the scope of a keen understanding of the law, could spot a seemingly minor detail that could lead to freeing a suspect accused of trafficking 1000’s of kilos of cocaine.

Minor details that could lead to a dismissed case could rise out of one of the situations listed below.

  • The lawyer knowing of alternative sentences that can keep you out of prison.
  • Did the police have the right to make that traffic stop?
  • Did the police lawfully search the vehicle or your person?
  • Were your Constitutional Rights violated?
  • Did law enforcement have probable cause to invade a residence?
  • Did the police make mistakes, or an unlawful arrest?

Are you looking for a qualified criminal defense attorney in Houston to discuss drug crime arrest details with at no charge? Call me to schedule a review of your case at 713-877-9400 today.

Return of Seized Property

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense | Search and Seizure

It is very common for law enforcement officers and agents to confiscate personal property during an arrest. There are several reasons for this course of action and, depending on the type of item confiscated, it may be possible to retrieve the property. However, property such as controlled substances will not be returned to the owner and will usually be checked into the evidence locker at the police station or will be destroyed. Some other types of property cannot be returned to the owner once they have been confiscated because they will be used in a trial to secure a conviction.

When Do Police Officers Confiscate Property?

Typically, law enforcement officers search and seize property when they feel that the items will be used in a criminal trial. This is the main reason for property confiscation, and the illegal possession of the property is usually the cause of the arrest. When someone illegally possesses this type of property, the property is known as contraband, and it cannot be returned to the owner.

Items That are Confiscated the Most

Another type of property confiscation is known as forfeiture. When certain items are used in the commission of a crime, the items will be legally forfeited into the custody of law enforcement. Such items typically include:

  • Cash that was gained from selling illegal drugs
  • Illegal weapons and vehicles that have been stolen.

One of the most common types of property confiscation is performed for the safekeeping of the items being confiscated. This is most often done at the scene of an arrest or when someone is being checked into the custody of a jail. These items are usually found on the person of the individual under arrest and often include:

  • Small amounts of money
  • Jewelry
  • Cell phones
  • Certain articles of clothing

These types of property are generally the easiest to retrieve after an arrest has been made.

How to Retrieve Confiscated Property

In order to retrieve confiscated property after an arrest, there are certain steps that must be followed. When someone is booked into jail and their personal belongings are confiscated for safekeeping, the jail clerk will secure their items into storage and catalog the items according to the name of the owner. They will then present the owner with a voucher or receipt to ensure that all of the property is accounted for.

To retrieve this property after being released from custody, the owner must present proper identification as well as their voucher to the jail clerk. The items will then be released from secure storage.

For more information about property retrieval after an arrest, speak to Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.