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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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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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