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Can Police Access My Cellphone After a Cocaine Arrest in North Carolina?

In the course of a cocaine arrest in North Carolina, police will search for further evidence of crimes in various locations – including your phone. A cellphone may contain some of the most incriminating evidence imaginable, and it may lead to much more serious penalties. Are police in North Carolina even allowed to access your phone without your permission? Do they need a search warrant? What happens if a police officer pressures you into unlocking your phone for them?


What Might Happen if Police Access My Phone During a Drug Arrest?


The situation can go from bad to worse if an officer accesses your phone during a cocaine arrest. This was illustrated with shocking clarity in January 2023 when the North Carolina Highway Patrol pulled over two vehicles on I-95. The troopers discovered 10 kilos of cocaine in one vehicle and a handgun in the other vehicle, but they were not satisfied with this evidence. 


Detectives arrived at the scene and continued to investigate – eventually gaining access to one of the suspect’s phones. After scrolling through the call history, detectives found that one phone number had been dialed recently – and it was labeled as “Sinaloa.” After further investigation, it was determined that this phone number belonged to a member of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel. One year later, the owner of this phone was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison. 


Are Police Allowed to Access My Phone Without Permission in North Carolina?


In North Carolina, police officers do not have the legal authority to gain access to your phone without your permission. If you do not give them permission, they must obtain a warrant. Without probable cause, obtaining a warrant from a judge would probably be quite difficult. In a case where a suspect is arrested with quantities of cocaine, however, a judge may agree that a search of the cell phone data is acceptable. As a general rule, you should refuse to allow officers to access your phone after a cocaine arrest. Remember, your decision to exercise your right to remain silent cannot be interpreted as a sign of guilt. 


However, new developments call these principles into question. Theoretically, a police officer could simply hold your phone up to your face, and the facial recognition technology could unlock the phone for them. A new bill was also put forward in North Carolina back in 2023 that would theoretically give officers access to cell phone data without warrants. 


Find a Cocaine Defense Attorney in North Carolina


If you have been searching for an experienced cocaine defense lawyer in North Carolina, look no further than Coastal South Law. With our assistance, you can strive for the best possible results and avoid unnecessary penalties. If police are demanding access to your phone and they lack a proper warrant, you may benefit from a consultation with your lawyer before making any further decisions. Reach out today for more information. 


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