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Bay Area Judge Explains Your Rights If Police Want To Search Your Cellphone

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – As a California Highway Patrol officer faces accusations of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect, what are your rights if you are pulled over?

Can you say no to an officer who asks for your phone? "Yes. And in fact, that is your right," said retired judge LaDoris Cordell, who is San Jose's independent police auditor.

When can law enforcement take your cell phone?

"The only way that an officer can look at it is if you consent, or if there is some sort of an emergency that just requires an officer to look at it, or if the officer has a search warrant," Cordell said.

That's what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June. But what if you're arrested, say, for DUI, and the officer takes the phone, along with your wallet and other personal belongings?

Cordell said officers can't take information or photos from a person's phone. "They may not. That is a violation of the law."

If officers do steal information from your phone, what can you do? Cordell said you can sue for invasion of privacy, or file a complaint with the law enforcement agency. But if the officer is disciplined, any punishment does not have to be made public.

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