The number of people with cellphones has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. Many young people do not even have a landline phone, relying solely on their cellphones as a means of communication.
Law enforcement is also capitalizing on the increased prevalence of cellphone ownership and often use it to make their jobs easier. Police can track cellphones used by targeted individuals any time the phone is on and able to accept calls and more than 95 percent of all law enforcement agencies say they use cellphone location information.
According to a recent ACLU report, the most common use of tracking data by police is to investigate crimes. The police can use tracking data to show a suspect was in the location of the crime when it was committed. In other cases, police claim to use the information only in emergencies, such as efforts to locate missing persons.
Cellphone networks rely on location tracking to function. The ability to obtain tracking data depends on the cellphone carrier. Most carriers require a court order before they will release any data. However, some carriers are trying to capitalize on the police’s use of the data by marketing “surveillance fees” to law enforcement for location services.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens’ rights against illegal searches and seizures by government authorities. To conduct a legal search and seizure, a valid warrant is usually necessary. However, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, police often do not obtain a warrant when it comes to cellphone tracking. Law enforcement agents tracking an individual by his or her cellphone without a valid warrant may be in violation of Fourth Amendment protections.
The ACLU is advocating for a requirement that law enforcement agencies obtain warrants for all tracking and surveillance based on cellphone technology. With the emergence of mobile spyware applications, cellphone users are advised to protect their phones with passcodes or swipe patterns, even in their homes and at work.
While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer, Greg S. Law. To schedule a meeting with Greg, please call or complete the intake form below.
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