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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for illegal search and seizureEven though nearly everyone carries a cell phone with them at all times, it has become more and more clear in recent years that this practice exposes a great deal of our personal information. For those who may potentially face criminal charges, police officers or other law enforcement officials may be able to access location data and other information that can be used as evidence. This was made clear following the riots that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. While investigating and prosecuting those who were involved in these incidents, the FBI has accessed multiple different types of personal data. This has raised questions about what types of information are available to law enforcement officials and whether the collection of this data violates people’s constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure.

Location and GPS Data and Search Warrants

Typically, if law enforcement officials wish to access an individual person’s data, such as the calls they have made or the text messages they have sent, they are required to obtain a search warrant. Even if police officers and federal officials cannot access a person’s phone, they may use a variety of other methods to collect data that can provide them with information about people’s location and communications. In some cases, they may request “tower dumps” from cell phone companies to track people’s locations by identifying everyone who connected to a certain cell tower at a certain date and time.

As the use of tower dumps has become more well-known, some courts have found that police must obtain warrants before accessing this type of cell-site location information (CSLI). However, officials may be able to use other methods to access a person’s data, including GPS location data and personal information gathered by other apps. 

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney cell phone evidence

In today’s world, our cell phones have become a normal and natural part of our lives. Even just 20 years ago, most people did not own a mobile phone, and the ones who did own them had phones that were nowhere near as powerful as the ones we have today. Smartphones are convenient for many everyday tasks, but they also pose valid privacy concerns for users because of data collection from nearly every app on your device. In some cases, this data may even be used to arrest, charge, or even convict you of a crime in Connecticut.

How Is My Data Being Collected?

Many cell phone users’ personal data is being collected, stored, and sold off without their knowledge. You may wonder how this might happen -- the apps on your phone, in fact, are responsible for most of this data collection. Data trackers are hidden and embedded into many apps that are readily available on the App Store and Google Play. These trackers collect all kinds of information and personal data about you, sell it, and transmit it to various third parties, who are often advertisers. However, advertisers are not the only ones interested in personal data. Recently, it was discovered that location data was being sold to law enforcement to help detain undocumented immigrants. 

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer for digital evidenceTechnology is a common and often unavoidable presence in today’s world. Think about your own life; how often do you use your cell phone? What do you use your cell phone for? If you have ever used apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps to get from place to place, your location has been recorded. Even if you delete phone calls or text message conversations from your phone, the records of these conversations still exist. When it comes to criminal cases, technology has become a commonly-used source of evidence.

Cell Phones and Types of Evidence

Almost everything you do on your cell phone is recorded and stored. Information about any calls you make, any text messages you send, and any apps you use can all be accessed on your cell phone, even if you have attempted to delete those records. There are many different types of cell phone data that can be used in criminal cases, including:

  • History from your internet browser
  • Email messages (when they were sent, who they were sent to, and their content)
  • Call records, such as who you called and when
  • Text messages, what they contained, and who they were sent to
  • GPS and cell tower information, which can be used to attempt to determine the location of the phone

Defendants Often Have Trouble Retrieving Evidence

The United States criminal justice system was founded on the belief that those accused of committing a crime have certain rights. For example, the prosecution has the burden of proof in criminal cases, and prosecutors are required by law to reveal all evidence that they have against the defendant. Though these protections exist, defendants and their attorneys are often still at a disadvantage.

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Hartford criminal lawyer for cell phone evidenceIn today’s world, there are many technological advances that previous generations could not even dream of being possible. As the world of technology has advanced, so has the world of forensics. Advancements in technology have also allowed advancements in gathering evidence and processing that evidence for use in criminal cases. Cell phones are one such piece of technology that is used all over the world as a source of criminal evidence.

What Kind of Data Is Used as Evidence?

Cell phones -- especially smartphones -- gather, process, and store all kinds of data. From the text messages you send and receive, the photos you share, or the websites you visit, almost everything you do on your phone is stored and can be retrieved, even if you have deleted it. Some common types of data that can be retrieved from cell phones include:

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