Technically no, not without a search warrant or your permission, which you should be slow to grant. Police Forces worldwide look jealously at their colleagues in Border Control who already have the right to request you hand over your phone and passwords. Several countries including, the UK, Mexico, Ireland and France propose legislation shortly to grant the Police expanded search powers.
At the moment, 'reasonable grounds' are all a cop needs to stop and search you. However, in most countries, they need the relevant documentation (warrants) to search your phone except in the case of child sex offences or terrorism, in which case, the phone must be given to the Police immediately.
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Teenagers are especially vulnerable as they are more likely to succumb to Police charm or lack of and grant access to their phone rather than calling their parents. When it's 4 am, most teenagers are not thinking straight. Police will quickly search for 'dick pics', details of parties, drug use, location details, sexting, other criminal activity or at the very least, something incriminating.
For some strange reason, many teenagers think that as minors, the Police can not stop and search them. Ask your teenagers what they think? Can the Police stop and search them? Internet safety is all about common sense, including how you use your social media properly. Online safety talks for parents
Part of internet safety is understanding how sensitive details on your phone are and what they reveal about you, and your activities.
Schools need to be telling kids, and teenagers the above, we think most schools are not as well informed as they should be. Police will take advantage of Sexting images (naked pictures) to pressurise kids, teenagers, into making further admissions. Please read our online safety article for children about sexting, including teenagers here
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When the Police search a phone, they 'strip search' a Phone forensically from top to bottom. One advantage of bringing in new laws is Police might be told to limit their search to relevant items only. Currently, all videos, photos, DMs, messages, contacts, locations, personal conservations are searched. This includes people who have been a victim of crime, there is a need to set boundaries. Crime victims suffer the same fate as phones are investigated and continue paying the bill.
Almost every advanced country in the world is preparing new laws setting parameters for phone searches. Civil rights organisations are also pointing out that Police need to be forced to respect privacy boundaries too in these searches.
When the Police caution someone during an arrest with “you do not have to say anything etc" This protects you from having to answer any questions, these same rights include not having to reveal passwords to your phone or social media, except where any terrorist activity or sexual offences against children are involved.
Police Forces everywhere are much better at persuading people to reveal passwords without needing a warrant. Remember if using Twitter, Snapchat or other DMs, police can seek their evidence directly from social media.
In the UK, for example, serving someone an S49 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 200 (S49 RIPA Notice), demands all electronic details on presentation. Law carries a mandatory prison term of 2-5 years, again national security, cybersecurity and child indecency.
It is very clear, that if you are in a position to afford a lawyer, get legal representation before granting anyone access to your phone. Especially as these searches are colloquially known as digital strip searches. In Ireland, Greece, and Portugal for example, it can take up to 2 years for a full search to be completed.
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Sexting is illegal. Most Teenagers think it is just a picture, everyone does it.
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