Do You Have to Unlock Your Phone for Police During a DUI Stop?

By January 11, 2017Thomas Law Firm


“You have the right to remain silent. Anything that you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve ever watched a crime television show or movie in the United States, you probably know what Miranda warnings are. The idea behind the Miranda warning is to preserve a person’s constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Does that include the protection of your digital data? Smartphones have saturated American life and the data contained within these phones can be of great use to police in situations such as DUI stops. Perhaps the police would like to look through your text messages to see if you are coming from a party, or maybe you have a few pictures of you smoking marijuana from an hour before you are pulled over that police would love to use as evidence of your impairment.

The United States Supreme Court Issues a Rare Unanimous Ruling

In 2014, the case of Riley v. California reached the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts issued the opinion, stating that searching a smartphone is nothing like searching a person’s wallet, and that police are required to obtain a warrant to search. So, if a police officer asks you to unlock your phone without a warrant, you do not have to.

Decisions like this and the rapid progression of technology have led some to suggest that we revise the Miranda warning for the digital age. Do you agree? Should police be required to inform people they take into custody that the right to remain silent includes the right to withhold your phone’s password to prevent the police from accessing it?

Our Denver law firm consists of experienced attorneys and former prosecutors who have been on both sides of criminal cases, and we seek to provide exceptional client experiences to those in Colorado charged with impaired driving offenses.

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