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Hartford, CT criminal lawyer for illegal search and seizureWhile modern technology has improved people’s lives in many ways, it has also created concerns about privacy. Most people carry cell phones or other electronic devices with them everywhere they go, and the use of apps that track their location can leave a data trail that provides a great deal of information about their activities and behavior. In some cases, this data may be accessed by law enforcement officials who are looking to identify criminal suspects. Recently, the use of “geofence warrants” has come under scrutiny, and criminal defense attorneys and privacy advocates are fighting back against the improper collection of data during criminal investigations.

What Are Geofence Warrants?

“Geofencing” refers to drawing a boundary around a certain geographic area and identifying people within that area who have used electronic devices. When people use apps such as Google Maps, their location history is saved, and this data may be used to identify them at a later date. 

Over the past several years, law enforcement officials have begun issuing warrants to obtain location data for people who were in a certain area at the time that criminal activity allegedly occurred. Google has reported that warrants for this type of data increased by 1,500% between 2017 and 2018 and by another 500% between 2018 and 2019. As of the end of 2109, the company was receiving as many as 180 law-enforcement-related requests for information each week.

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East Hartford, CT criminal law attorney search warrant

In today’s society, cell phones are commonplace when just 20 years ago, they were considered a luxury item. Now, cell phones have a plethora of uses other than just being for making phone calls. Think about what you use your cell phone every day. Many people use their smartphones to navigate from place to place, access the Internet, save photos and contacts, set calendars and schedules, and communicate with friends and family. All of that information is stored on your phone and can be viewed by mostly anyone who has access to the phone -- even police. In recent years, cell phones have become more valuable as evidence for law enforcement officers investigating a crime. However, some police professionals have run into opposition when attempting to retrieve evidence from password-protected phones. 

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules in Favor

Recently, such an issue made its way to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where the court ruled that a search warrant can indeed require a defendant to reveal his or her passcode to unlock his or her phone for law enforcement officers to retrieve evidence. The court ruled 4-3 that no existing state or federal laws provided enough protections for a passcode. This decision came from a case involving a man who claimed it was unconstitutional to force him to provide his passcode to police during their investigation into the man’s alleged involvement with aiding another man charged with drug trafficking.

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