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Can you withdraw your consent to a digital data search?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In allowing investigators to search your digital data, such as your computer, phone or online accounts, you might wonder if you can change your mind and stop them from looking through your device. The answer might vary based on factors like how and when you withdraw consent and what’s already been done with your data.

How does consent work in a search?

Consent to a digital data search is when you voluntarily let the police or other investigators access and examine your digital data without a warrant. A warrant is a court-issued document that legally authorizes the police to search for and seize evidence of a crime. The police usually need one to search your digital data unless there are some exceptions, such as an emergency or valid consent.

Why would you consent to one?

Consenting to a digital data search can occur for several reasons. You might do so to cooperate with law enforcement, out of a misunderstanding of your rights, due to advice from legal counsel, or from fear of repercussions. While you might believe consenting to a search could be beneficial, it’s important to remember this can lead to unforeseen consequences. The police might find unexpected information, create copies of your data or share it with other agencies.

Why might you want to withdraw consent later?

You have the right to withdraw consent to a digital data search at any point before it’s completed. In a Maryland Supreme Court case, Daniel McDonnell overturned his conviction by revoking his digital data search consent early. However, withdrawing consent doesn’t automatically safeguard your data or privacy. Police might still justify their search or use the evidence they found against you before your withdrawal. Therefore, you must know your rights and options when it comes to consenting or withdrawing consent to a digital data search in Maryland. You should think carefully before agreeing to a digital data search.