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Hartford criminal law attorney for student cell phone searchesNearly everyone in the United States uses a cell phone on a daily basis, and these devices contain a great deal of personal information. This is especially true for young people, who are always finding new uses for technology. While most people have some expectations of privacy when using electronic devices, there are situations where a phone may be subject to a search by school officials or law enforcement. Students will want to understand their rights regarding cell phones, since information uncovered during a search could lead to serious penalties, up to and including criminal charges.

Use of Phone Decryption Technology by Schools

Students will often use their phones to send text messages and emails, take and share photos and videos, browse the internet, and communicate with others using social media. All of these activities can involve intimate details of a person’s life that they will want to keep private. If teachers or administrators suspect that a student has violated a school’s policies or committed unlawful acts, they may ask a student to unlock their phone and submit to a search. In some cases, schools may tell students that school policies require them to unlock their phones when requested, or they may impose penalties if students refuse to comply.

In a troubling trend, some schools have begun using technology to hack into students’ phones. Several school districts throughout the United States have purchased mobile device forensic tools that can be used to bypass passcodes and access information stored on cell phones. This technology is often used by the FBI and other law enforcement organizations to investigate terrorism or other serious crimes, and when it is used by school officials, it may result in improper access to a student’s private information.

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cell phone, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police could not force a person to allow his or her cell phone to be searched unless a warrant was obtained first—even if the person was arrested. Today, however, as technology has continued to advance, school students are more likely than ever to have mobile devices with them in the classroom. If a teacher suspects that a student is violating school rules on his or her phone or tablet, does the teacher have the right to check the student’s device? Connecticut could be about to answer that question as a proposed privacy measure is making its way through the state’s legislature.

Constitutional Protections

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable and improper searches and seizures of personal property. Over the years, case law has clarified what constitutes reasonable and proper searches, but such limitations, in general, only apply to law enforcement agencies and government entities.

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