A very common question which comes up in criminal law which clients have asked me before, if I am under arrest or detention and the police seize my cell phone, do they have the right to examine my cell phone without a search warrant? The short answer to this question is no.    Your cell phone is considered to be your personal property or personal belonging. i.e. you own your cell phone and it is your personal possession.   Canadian law states that you a have privacy interest in your cell phone and under section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms it would be an unlawful search and seizure which would typically be excluded at trial under section 24(2), based on an application to exclude the evidence under the Charter.  However, the police are usually a little bit smarter than this and they typically will not search your cell phone unless they obtain a search warranted based on reasonable and probable grounds.   I have seen some inexperienced officers search cell phones without a search warrant and the evidence derived from the cell phone search was excluded from being introduced as evidence at the trial and the charges were dismissed.  You also not do not have to give them your cell phone password, but you could consent to a search of your cell phone if you are so inclined. The police could say to you, “Will you let me search your phone?” If you say yes, the police can then search your phone because you have consented or agreed to allow them to do this.  So you have to be very careful in this situation, especially if you know that there is some evidence of a crime on the cell phone. A lawyer would advise you not to consent to a cell phone search and especially if you know there is incriminating evidence which the police will find on your phone. This is the short answer to this question. Typically, the police do not have the right to search your cell phone in Canada without a search warrant and the only way they have a right to search your cell phone is if you consent to same, which is not necessarily a wise thing to do.

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