Warrantless Cell Phone Searches


Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the Fourth Amendment allows police to search a person’s cell phone without a warrant after he or she is arrested.  This case is important because modern cell phones contain a wealth of personal information that is discussed below.  The case is Riley v. California.

The American Bar Association has posted the briefs of the parties online.  You can click here for more information.

This is a common issue in drug trafficking offenses where police arrest an individual for a drug trafficking offense (i.e., dealing cocaine, heroin, or meth).  Police then search the arrested person’s cell phone to determine who he or she was communicating with during the drug transaction.

However, today, most cellphones contain enormous amounts of information including private email communications, Facebook and social media posts, and medial or other personal information.  Also, what if you are arrested for driving without a seat-belt?  Can police search your phone under these circumstances.  This is a concern the Court was struggling with yesterday at oral arguments.

Scotusblog contains a discussion on this case.  Click here to read the issues in plain English.  Also, the Re’s Judicata blog has an interesting post on how the Supreme Court conflated the authority to search with the authority to seize.  It’ a bit wonky–but interesting nonetheless.

Genaro R. Cortez
Phone:  210.733.7575


What is an Expunction?

Expunctions allow a person to “erase” a wrongful arrest from his or her criminal records.  This procedure was created by the Texas Legislature and is found in Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

If a court grants an expunction, then a Petitioner can deny that an arrest occurred and the existence of an expunction order. It also requires government agencies to return Petitioner’s arrest records to the court or obliterated them if return is not practicable–thus erasing the arrest records of Petitioner.

People usually seek expunctions of their criminal arrest records to increase their odds of getting a job.

Am I eligible for an Expunction?

Generally speaking, there are 6 categories of expunctions under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure:

1.  expunctions after being acquitted of a crime (at trial);

2.  expunctions if a person is pardoned;

3.  expunctions arising out of identity theft;

4.  expunctions after being convicted at trial but then acquitted on appeal;

5.  expunctions under Chapter 55.011 for posthumous relief based on the Timothy Cole case.  (Mr. Cole died in prison after being convicted of a rape he did not commit); and

6.  expunctions after dismissal (this is the most common type of expunction).

It is best to speak with a qualified attorney to determine if you are eligible for an expunction in Texas.

Are Petitions for Expunctions the same as Petitions for Nondisclosure?

No.  The requirements for Petitions for Nondisclosure are found in Chapter 411.081 of the Texas Government Code and they have different eligibility requirements than Expunctions.

Need and Expunction in San Antonio (Bexar County) or surrounding areas?

Then call 210.733.7575 for a free in-person consultation.

PHONE:  210-733-7575



What types of cases do you handle?

I represent individuals charged with criminal offenses in state and federal court.  Examples of cases I handle include:  DWI, Drug Possession, Illegal Re-Entry, Conspiracy Offenses, Fraud, and other serious felony offenses.

I also assist people who are going through family law disputes–including divorce, child-custody, child-support, mediation, and post-divorce enforcement issues.

Finally, I help recover damages for people hurt in automobile accidents.

What is your education and experience?

I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1999 with a B.A. in Economics.  I attended Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, Texas and graduated in December 2002.

I am licensed to practice in all Texas state courts, federal district court for the Western District of Texas, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I have tried cases to a jury in state and federal court.  I have also represented many Bexar County residents who are going through a divorce in bench trials to resolve disputes involving child custody, property division, and spousal maintenance.

How much do you charge and do you have payment plans?

Fees depend on the type and complexity of the case.  To determine the cost of your case, it is best to call (210.733.7575) and set up an appointment.  The first in-person consultation is always free.

Payment plans are available.  We also accept credit card payments, checks, and cash.

Can you guarantee the outcome of my case?

Unfortunately no.  Criminal and Family law cases turn on the facts of each particular case.

My goal in every case is to conduct a full investigation, assess the strengths and weaknesses of each case, and then advise the client of his or her options.  If a client opts for a jury trial–then I will do every thing possible to secure the desired outcome.

If I hire you, will you keep me updated on the status of my case? 

Absolutely.  I understand the anxiety and stress clients go through when litigation is pending.  I will keep you updated on the progress of your case through phone, regular mail, and email–depending on your situation.

Do you speak Spanish?

Yes.  I am fluent in Spanish and welcome the opportunity to assist you with your legal concerns.

Can I email you a question? 

Yes.  My email is dwi@cortezlawblog.com  .    However, please be aware that I am not able to give legal advice by email. I recommend you contact me at 210.733.7575 and setup and appointment to discuss your case.

Where do you practice law?

My office is located at 730 W. Hildebrand Ave., Suite 2, San Antonio, Texas 78212.

I primarily practice law in San Antonio, Texas (Bexar County) and surrounding counties.

PHONE:  210.733.7575


DWI Arrest (Bexar County, Texas)

Question:  I was arrested for DWI.  It’s my first arrest and I’ve never been in trouble.  What happens next and what should I do? 

dwi stopFirst, don’t panic.  Your anxiety and stress level will go through the roof soon after an arrest.  You may also feel a bit embarrassed about what is happening.  These are all normal feelings.    Fortunately, there is a way forward.

Always request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days from the date you were arrested (i.e., served with notice of license suspension).  The notice is on the DIC-24 Form that was provided to you when you were arrested.

If you do not ask for a hearing within 15 days of the arrest, then your license will be automatically suspended on the 40th day after arrest.

[Photo is from Creative CommonsDWI Saturation Patrol-Fairfax County.]

The ALR hearing has a second purpose.  You can subpoena the arresting officer and cross-examine him or her under oath about the facts of the arrest.  This serves to “freeze” his or her testimony and allows your defense counsel to mount a more effective defense against the State at your criminal trial.

Should I get an attorney?

Yes.  You should hire an attorney who handles these types of cases.   In my opinion, you need to consider three factors when hiring an attorney:  (1) attorney experience; (2) your budget; and (3) comfort level with the attorney.


Getting arrested for DWI is a stressful and difficult experience.  It is important to consult with an experienced DWI attorney who will help you take control of your case and defend you in court.

Genaro Cortez