If you are pulled over or arrested, the police may ask if they can have access to your cell phone. You do NOT have to let them have access. In fact, you should NOT let them have access to you phone, even if you think you have nothing to hide.
In the 2014 case of Riley v. California, the Supreme Court held warrantless searches and seizures of cell phones are unconstitutional. Therefore, law enforcement officers cannot search and seize your phone without a warrant.
Officers may say they will go easy on you if you hand over your phone, or that if you cooperate the court will just dismiss the charges anyhow. They are simply attempting to get you to consent to a search, and they will not go easy on you nor will the court dismiss your case if you comply.
The only time you should allow an officer (or firefighter/EMS) to access your phone is if there is an emergency and for some reason you are not able to access the phone yourself to get an important phone number. However, if you are perfectly capable of operating your phone, do not turn it over. The officer might be trying to see if you were texting and driving, or if there is evidence of other illegal activity on your phone.
When you trade a phone in or sell it, make sure you completely wipe the phone of all personal data. Generally, Verizon or other cell retailers will do this for you.
If you are charged with a crime in Durham or Raleigh, contact Guirguis Law at (919) 832-0500 for a free consultation.