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Hartford criminal law attorney for electronic evidenceElectronic data is a factor that plays an important role in an increasing number of criminal cases. Law enforcement officials use multiple different methods to collect data about suspects, including where they have traveled and the people they have contacted or associated with. While people are becoming more aware of the risks that their personal information may be accessed through their cell phones, they may not realize that the vehicles they drive may also be collecting information that could be accessed by law enforcement. 

The extent of this issue was recently made clear when The Intercept obtained a contract between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a Swedish firm that provided “vehicle forensics kits.” This contract described the ways that CBP could use the firm’s technology to obtain evidence about how a vehicle was used, as well as data from cell phones or mobile devices that paired with a vehicle. While this specific contract only applied to CBP, other law enforcement agencies such as local police departments may have access to similar technology that will allow them to obtain vehicle data during criminal investigations.

Types of Data Collected by Vehicles

The computer systems on modern vehicles store a great deal of information that could be used to track a person’s movements and activities. A car’s telematics system can track the speed at which a vehicle has traveled, when headlights were switched on and off, when doors were opened, when seat belts were used, and much more. When combined with information from a vehicle’s navigation system, this may allow law enforcement to determine the locations a person has visited, whether they were carrying passengers, and when they stopped or exited their vehicle.

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East Hartford criminal defense attorney for electronic evidenceIn the 21st century, we live in a digital world, and this means that the regular use of computers and other electronic devices leaves a trail of data about a person’s location and activities. In many cases, the collection of data is harmless, and it can even be beneficial, such as when apps are used to track information about a person’s diet and provide recommendations about how they can improve their health. Unfortunately, many people do not realize just how much information about themselves they are sharing and who can access this information. Those who are facing criminal charges should be aware of what types of data could potentially be accessed by law enforcement and how this information could be used as evidence in their case.

Types of Data That May Play a Role in Criminal Cases

In recent years, law enforcement officials have expanded their efforts to obtain information that can be used to identify potential criminal suspects, investigate their whereabouts and activities, and determine whether they have probable cause to arrest a person and charge them with a crime. These investigations may involve information from many different sources, including:

  • Cell phones - The data stored on a person’s smartphone can be used to verify their location, movements, and activities and the people they called or sent messages to. However, even if law enforcement is unable to directly access a person’s phone, they may be able to use other methods to gather information that could be used in a case. Officials may request “tower dumps” that list all of the phones that connected to a cell phone tower during a certain period of time, or they may receive other records from cell phone companies or mobile apps, and they have tools that allow them to analyze this data and track individual users’ locations and the people they have communicated with.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for informant testimonyThe United States is a unique country in many ways. When it comes to the U.S. legal system, defendants are given quite a few inherent freedoms that many other countries do not provide. The way the legal system is set up here in our country, law enforcement officials can give individuals clemency for certain crimes in exchange for information. For example, police can choose to let a person walk free if they can offer up information about a crime committed by someone else. Prosecutors have the ability to recommend a lesser sentence or even drop criminal charges altogether if a defendant cooperates. One of the best examples of this is the practice of allowing prison inmates to testify against other inmates in exchange for various benefits.

The Issue With Jailhouse Informants

Recently, the use of jailhouse informants has become a hot topic. This has come in part because of the availability of new DNA testing technology that has helped quite a few people be declared innocent of the crimes they were accused of committing. Many of the people who have been exonerated were convicted because of testimony from jailhouse informants, whose intentions are not always the best. In many cases, informants are offered certain benefits for providing testimony, such as a reduction in their own sentences.

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