Are Your Digital Devices Gathering Evidence for the Police?

July 10th, 2018 by Attorney Dan Carman

Are Your Digital Devices Gathering Evidence for the Police?

We are surrounded by digital devices that we use every day. We can’t be without our smartphones. GPS guides us to where we want to go. If we want information about something, we search for answers on Google or just call out to our digital assistant. Without realizing, it we leave a trail of digital information — whether that’s what we said, where we were, what we were doing and even what we were thinking about or planning to do. Kentucky law enforcement may get access to this information whether or not we want them to.

Law enforcement agencies are relying more and more on digital information to get a better understanding of crime victims and possible perpetrators. Because of the potential quantity and quality of digital evidence, where such information is missing a case may be more difficult to investigate and solve.

Digital evidence is, basically, the same as any other evidence. It’s information used to try to place people and events in time and space to establish the possible cause of criminal incidents, along with possibly finding a motive. But compared to evidence traditionally found in criminal cases, digital evidence is wider in scope, may be more personally sensitive, follows people where they go and requires different training and tools by law enforcement.

The U.S. Supreme Court noted in a recent case that cell phones aren’t just tools used to communicate, but they’re computers that fit in your hand that can be used as a telephone, calendar, diary and email system.

  • Digital evidence can come from suspects and victims.
  • Smartphones can track a person’s location.
  • Text messages, emails and social media posts can be used to determine the relationship between a victim and suspect and their states of mind.
  • A digital assistant may have recorded conversations and interactions between the two.
  • Contradictory evidence may be found. Threatening messages may have been sent, along with later messages of reconciliation and photos of the parties enjoying themselves together.
  • Investigators may need to spend vast amounts of time reviewing all the available information, especially if multiple devices are involved.
  • There could be jurisdictional issues because the crime may be in one state, a suspect arrested in another and information may be saved on a server in a third state or even a foreign country.

The U.S. Supreme Court four years ago ruled that, without a warrant, law enforcement can’t search the cell phone of a criminal suspect upon arrest. They stated that smartphones and other electronic devices aren’t like wallets, briefcases or vehicles, which can be subject to a limited initial examination by law enforcement. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement would also need a warrant to obtain information from cell phone providers concerning the location of smartphones.

New technology we use to make our lives easier, make ourselves more connected to others and perform our jobs more efficiently also leads to less privacy. If you’re arrested and law enforcement seeks information from one of your digital devices, there may be a number of legal arguments that could prevent that from happening or reduce the amount of information that needs to be divulged. Without the help of a criminal defense attorney, it would be very hard for you to make those arguments on your own.

If you or a family member is facing criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and your future. Contact us today so you can discuss your situation with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, Kentucky-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation.