In this four-part series, a federal criminal defense attorney in Tampa is discussing ways the police get around not having a search warrant to perform investigations. In the first section, we discussed how cops can determine your location through your phone’s tracking system or your IP address. In this section, we will discuss some other ways the police can perform a virtual stakeout.
Although it’s illegal for police officers to listen to your phone calls without a warrant, they can access your phone records. In other words, law enforcement can see who a suspect called (or who called them) and at what time. Although the police may not know the relevance of these phone calls, call logs can be obtained after a subpoena is filed. A subpoena is a written command that is similar to a search warrant; however, utilizing this legal tool is generally not as strict a process as obtaining a search warrant. In some cases, the police can use phone call logs to prove that two parties conspired or communicated at a specific time that is related to an alleged crime.
When deciding whether or not the police legally have a right to access your emails, it comes down to exactly when this correspondence happened. Recent emails that were sent or received within 180 days require a warrant for the police to review; however, older emails can be accessed by authorities after issuing a subpoena. The same 180-day rule applies to text messages meaning that older text messages are rather easy for law enforcement to access.
Access to emails and text messages has been a widely contested topic as cloud-based technology provides users with a server to store data long term. Unfortunately, access to stored data on cloud systems applies under the same laws as emails meaning that any data stored after 180 days doesn’t require a warrant for the police to access.
As all civilians should know, social media accounts that allow public access can be used by the police during investigations. Besides that, social media is among the greyest of areas when it comes to online investigations and determining whether or not law enforcement has a right to access private information. Generally, any information that is private on your account should require a warrant to be accessed; however, the decision to provide access to your personal information may come down to the discretion of the social network platform and their policies. With social surveillance software and other technologies quickly advancing and being utilized by the police force, there may be ways for the police to get around this issue regardless.
For more information on how law enforcement investigates civilians, please read sections three and four.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.