Lockscreens to Protect Your Cell Phone Privacy

Lockscreens to Protect Your Cell Phone Privacy

 Tell snoopy law enforcement to “Get a Warrant” to look at your phone

It is your right to refuse to grant Law Enforcement access to see what’s on your phone. The Fourth Amendment protects you, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Riley v. California in 2014 clarified and upholds your phone’s privacy. If you are arrested, you will be searched, and you should refuse to speak and should NOT consent to a search of your device. As a reminder to you and to law enforcement, below are some fun and stylish ways to protect your phone and privacy from warrantless search.



(These are not all of the screens! Scroll down for more. To put on your phone, Click to see full size, and then SAVE to device, and adjust your Settings to make it your lock screen)

Your cell phone is a treasure trove of intimate and personal data. It is likely half of everyone has something illegal on their phone.  Even seemingly harmless data can be twisted against you: incoming wrong numbers, Google searches, map data, social media posts. Phones are so much more than the finite contents of a wallet, purse, or pocket. Technology has connected so much of our lives through a single screen, a phone is a Palantir, a crystal ball, into the homes, bedrooms, bank accounts, diaries, medical records, and confessionals. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court saw the potential for a portable item in a pocket to reach too far. In the 2014 case Riley v. California, the Justices ruled unanimously that a search of an arrestee’s person and immediate effects was OK, but that did not include looking into the contents of their phone.

Chief Justice Roberts clearly explains why a phone is so very different from other objects in one’s pocket:

"Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans “the privacies of life". The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought."


When you are placed under arrest for a misdemeanor or felony, it is reasonable to expect the officer to search you. Your safety, and the safety of the officer and others are the drivers.  Of course, if the cops find a bloody glove in your pocket, or stolen credit cards in your purse, those can be logged as evidence.

The legalese for this procedure is called search incident to arrest (SITA). Your body, clothes, immediate possessions, and your reachable surroundings, all count as searchable by law enforcement after an arrest. In 1969, there was a case Chimel v. California that clarified what counts as “reachable surroundings” the police can search, and what constituted “Get a Search Warrant” for a search of the room or home. The Court upheld the Fourth Amendment protection of a man’s castle.

The Riley case brilliantly extends Chimel into the digital world. Where Chimel said you can search the man you arrested, but not the house he was in (without a warrant), Riley says you can search the arrestee, and note that he has a phone, but that phone is a magical portal to the digital realm, and is sacrosanct like a home. Fourth amendment, For The WIN!

Justice Roberts points out that it is permissible to physically search the phone, to make sure it is not a concealed gun or has a razor blade hidden in the case. That makes sense, and also makes me wonder what neighborhood Roberts grew up in. Gangsta! (BTdubs, he grew up on the mean streets of La Porte, Indiana). BTDoubledubs, La Porte, Indiana calls itself “the Hub of Awesome”.

If you are ever questioned by the police, or placed under arrest, you have rights. Eventually the police will read them to you, but be prepared at first contact to recite and demand your rights.

1, I choose to remain silent.

2, I do NOT consent to a search.

3, Call my lawyer.

Once that is done, continue to remain silent and to not consent to searches, and clam up until you see your lawyer.

Your phone is another matter. The little shiny Pandora’s box is enticing to a pressing cop who wants a reason to lock you up. There are any number of excuses officers use in testimony as to how they got into a suspect’s phone. “It was unlocked already.” “He consented to a search.” “He voluntarily put his fingerprint on the button.” Putting a lock screen that expresses your wishes provides another barrier to your data being illegally used against you.

The lock screen examples provided above can help protect your privacy during arrest. The more verbose screens have very clear instructions written out. Others are cheekier and less wordy. If you use any of these on your phone as a lock screen, your attorney will be pleased. The more wordy, the more ammo your attorney will have in case of an improper search of your device without a warrant.  Let your lawyer know about the lock screen so your defense is informed of the steps you have taken to protect yourself from over-aggressive searches.

Now you know about Riley and phone privacy, but do all the COPS out there know they are not supposed to dig through your phone after they arrest you? Using a lock screen to remind police of your rights can’t hurt.

(Click to see full size, and then SAVE to device, and adjust your Settings to make it your lock screen)



(Click to see full size, and then SAVE to device, and adjust your Settings to make it your lock screen)


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