If you have found yourself in a position where you have had to surrender your mobile phone to the police, you are probably wondering just how long they can hold onto it for.
With the continuing rise of technology, key evidence to an investigation can often be found on mobile devices. And, if a case goes to trial, the police will require a sufficient amount of evidence to successfully charge an offender.
If you’re a key witness to an investigation or are in possession of anything that has been deemed offensive, the police have the right to seize your mobile phone for as long as they need to.
Whether it takes days, weeks, or months depends entirely on the severity of the investigation along with other factors such as the ongoing demand within the investigatory units. Such units are often understaffed and incredibly busy, therefore, your phone could take some time to be fully analysed.
Today, we dive into when exactly your phone can be rightfully seized by the UK police and just how long they can hold onto it.
When police can take your phone
In order for a police officer to seize your phone, they must have either been granted a warrant to do so or after an official arrest.
The police in the UK cannot legally obtain your mobile device without good reason. Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where the police are involved, you do not need to hand over your mobile phone without a warrant or before an arrest.
But what if you have been arrested?
Legally, if you are involved in an investigation and the police have reason to believe you are in possession of evidence, your phone will be rightfully seized for analysis.
Even without an arrest, the force may be granted a warrant to obtain your phone.
Why police seize your phone
The police will seize your mobile phone if they have reason to believe you are in possession of evidence. The data contained within your phone will be analysed and any evidence found will be used to support the ongoing investigation in court.
If the police have been granted permission to analyse your phone, information such as your call logs, text messages, internet search history, and camera footage will be thoroughly checked.
Obtaining this information will allow the police to learn more about you and your involvement in any ongoing investigations.
How long can the police hold your phone?
The length of time the police can hold your phone depends on many factors such as the severity and depth of the investigation.
Often, once your phone arrives at the investigatory unit, the staff are likely investigating many other devices. With ongoing understaffing issues, it could take weeks or even months for your phone to be fully analysed.
Additionally, if the evidence contained within your phone is of serious nature, the police force may hold onto your phone for additional in-depth checks by various members of staff.
To conclude, there really is no time limit for retaining your mobile device. The police are legally entitled to hold onto your phone for however long required to ensure they have gathered as much information as possible should the evidence be trialled in court.
How to get your phone back
To get your phone back from the police, all investigations must be fully concluded. The enquiry officer will notify you via a ‘Letter of Authorisation’ once it is ready for collection.
It’s important to note that you will only get your phone back once the police have conducted their investigations and no longer require access to the information stored on your device.
If your phone contains any evidence in support of a court case, you will not receive your phone back until the case has drawn to a full conclusion. After such times, the court will release all your personal items back to you including your mobile phone.
However, if analysis of your device has unveiled any illegal assets, the police maintain the right to keep your phone – even after conviction.
If you haven’t heard anything from the police regarding the release of your mobile phone, you should contact the department directly who can provide you with an update.