When Can Law Enforcement Access a Person’s Cell Phone Location Data?

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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. 

In some cases, “marketing” databases are made available to law enforcement that include information gathered by private companies. When people allow social media programs, weather apps, games, or other services to track their location and use their personal data, this information may be compiled into databases that provide details about where they have gone, who they have communicated with, and their activities. Since people have “voluntarily” agreed to share their personal information when using apps, law enforcement may be able to access this data without obtaining a warrant.

Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Law Attorney

It has become clear that carrying a cell phone on your person may result in information about your location and activities being accessible to law enforcement. If you are facing criminal charges, and cell phone or GPS location information is a factor in your case, the Woolf Law Firm, LLC can help you determine the best defense strategy. We will fight to protect your rights and work to ensure that any evidence that was obtained illegally cannot be admitted in a criminal trial. Contact our Hartford criminal defense lawyer today at 860-290-8690 to set up a complimentary consultation. 

Sources:

https://reason.com/2021/02/26/so-long-as-you-carry-a-cellphone-the-government-can-track-you/

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