This question relates to the seizure of a mobile phone (cell phone) in the United Kingdom, focusing on England and Wales which has a different system to Scotland.

If the police arrest someone over a rape allegation, I understand that the police take the suspect's phone as it might contain evidence. Would the police require a warrant to seize the phone, in particular if the phone is not on the suspect at the time of the arrest (say the police arrest the suspect in their home) but in another room on the shelf?

I would be curious to know if being outside at the time, or if the offence were something different, changed anything in regards to the police being able to make a seizure of a phone.

  • Im not sure what is meant by "if the offence were something different". Any indictable offence triggers the PACE powers in my answer, but not for a summary-only offence.
    – user35069
    Mar 30, 2021 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


Can the police seize your phone without a warrant UK?

YES An arrest on suspicion of rape (an indictable offence) triggers two powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) to search premises for evidence without a warrant. Which power depends on where the arrest was made:

s.32(2)(b) PACE:

if the offence for which he has been arrested is an indictable offence, to enter and search any premises in which he was when arrested or immediately before he was arrested for evidence relating to the offence.

Note that s.32(2)(b) does not have the power of seizure attached, but the officer can use the "General Power of Seizures" at s.19 PACE

s.18 PACE:

(1) ... a constable may enter and search any premises occupied or controlled by a person who is under arrest for an indictable offence, if he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is on the premises evidence...

(2) A constable may seize and retain anything for which he may search under subsection (1) above.

IF... the phone is not on the suspect at the time of the arrest (say the police arrest the suspect in their home) but in another room on the shelf - either s.32(2)(b) or s.18 would apply

IF... being outside at the time - s.32(2)(b) possibly if he had just left, s.18 otherwise.

  • What if it was for a summary only offence? What about either-way (which are usually considered as indictable in these situations) offence?
    – questioner
    Apr 6, 2021 at 13:04
  • 1
    Either way offences are treated as indictable offences so trigger the above search powers, but summary-only offences don't
    – user35069
    Apr 6, 2021 at 13:19
  • So they would need a warrant? What if you got arrested for both a summary and indictable offence?
    – questioner
    Apr 6, 2021 at 13:22
  • 1
    A search warrant may be applied for when investigating either-way offences as are treated as indictable offences, but not for summary-only offences.
    – user35069
    Apr 6, 2021 at 14:04
  • What about for a summary only offence as I would assume they need a warrant?
    – questioner
    Apr 6, 2021 at 14:37

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