As a member of the police force, you aim to protect residents. You want to uncover the truth during criminal investigations so you can carry out your sworn duty. However, you also know there are both fair and unjust ways of obtaining information.
As technology continues to tangle within daily life, it records more and more data that could aid police. Cell phones contain entire candid conversations, GPS tracking monitors your every location and everything you do online lurks in your browsing history. Although these details are highly valuable for investigations, new court rulings have refreshed warrant laws for the modern era.
The Supreme Court is now trying to decide if an officer needs a warrant to use long-term location data from a suspect’s cell provider. In this particular case, an officer examined four entire months of a suspect’s records with no warrant, which could become a punishable offense in the future.
This case involves the 4th Amendment, which states that citizens shouldn’t expect third parties, such as wireless companies, to keep their shared data private from law enforcement. Depending on the ruling, the scope of a user’s legal privacy might transform.
Currently, officers need a warrant to access a suspect’s phone itself. Because the court has already considered a phone to be a personal device in other rulings, the user can expect a limited degree of privacy from police.
However, if a user “shares” their information with their service provider through wifi or cellular signals, they cannot expect it to stay private. Police could access this information without explaining probable cause for the search. The issue is that cell phone users might not necessarily be giving this information voluntarily due to the extreme data collection in the digital age.
Warrant laws related to these devices seem to constantly change the legal landscape. Even if you have the best intentions while investigating, some officers make mistakes. Privacy rules can be quite complex, so ask an attorney about defending your decision in court if a warrant law is unclear.