Can Police Use Cell Phone Data Against Me?

A recent report from USA Today indicates that it’s not just the National Security Agency that collects data from people’s phones. The state and local law enforcement agencies are also able to gather this type of data. In fact, new technology has improved the ways in which data can be gathered, making it easier than ever to get information. There are several reasons why law enforcement may want to get this type of data. The information can be used as evidence for major crimes (such as terrorism) or for minor infractions (like texting while driving).

What Methods are Used to Obtain Records?

One of the most common ways to obtain these records is by a method known as a tower dump. This allows police to gather data about every phone within a specific targeted area. A tower dump will usually involve multiple towers and includes many wireless providers, which will provide law enforcement with information from thousands of cell phones.

Another method law enforcement may use is called a Stingray. This is a small suitcase-sized unit that is used as a “fake” cell tower. Police set up the Stingray in a vehicle which is then utilized in a specific target neighborhood. All local cell traffic the uses this point of connection rather than a standard cell tower. The Stingray unit is quite pricey, so not many police departments currently own one.

What About My Fourth Amendment Rights?

As more and more cell phone data is collected by law enforcement agencies there is a growing concern for the protection of the rights of citizens. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable search and seizure. So far, police agencies have been able to justify the use of these methods because they are useful in the fight against terrorism. Some organizations including EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) have taken a stand to try to protect the rights of citizens. However, more and more local police agencies have been utilizing cell records.

How to Defend Cell Phone Evidence

If you have been charged with a crime the police may have obtained cell phone records as part of the evidence against you. The first step to take is to choose a criminal attorney who is experienced with this type of situation. Your lawyer will gain access to the evidence that is being used against you so he can develop the best possible defense strategy. Your lawyer will work to try to suppress any data that was gathered in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.

In some cases, the evidence may be unusable if your lawyer can successfully prove that it was gained improperly. If evidence is not able to be used, the case against you may be weakened and the prosecution may reduce charges or even drop them completely. If you’ve been charged with a crime, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible as this gives you the best chance of a positive outcome.