I have written before about both the good advances in technology, and the negative consequences of some of those developments. Here are a few more methods high tech methods that law enforcement uses, and occasionally misuses, in its investigations.
The police stop you for an alleged driving infraction – speeding, failure to stay in lane, tinted windows – and while talking with you the officer smells the odor of marijuana. The officer asks you to step out of the car, searches the car and finds drugs. You contact a criminal defense attorney to defend you and explore the possibility of a motion to suppress the search. If you are the driver of a personal vehicle or the owner, you have what is known as an expectation of privacy and “standing” to suppress the search. However, if you are a passenger of the vehicle, or the driver of a rental car that was rented by a friend or family member and you are not listed on the rental agreement, you may lack standing to challenge the search of the vehicle.
Between the President’s accusation that the prior President tapped his phones, and WikiLeaks recent exposure of alleged CIA hacking tools and techniques, much has been reported in recent days about the government’s ability to intercept and listen to our conversations over our cellphones; computers; smart home devices such as televisions and baby monitors; products such as Alexa and Amazon Echo; encrypted messaging apps such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram; and home security cameras and systems. All of these devices provide potential ways for the government and hackers to enter our seemingly private worlds and eavesdrop. The difference between the government and a hacker, however, is that the government must obtain a court authorized warrant to do so.
In the past few years, the explosion in the popularity of smart phones, text messaging, and use of social media has dramatically altered the fabric of our lives in ways that we are only beginning to understand. It has also changed the way that sophisticated attorneys investigate and litigate criminal cases. We all now carry with us detailed records of our conversations, photographs, and even our whereabouts in our mobile phones. For those unlucky enough to become ensnared in a criminal case, those records can become evidence of incalculable value. This is especially so for cases of domestic violence, where the parties almost always have created a voluminous record of communications in the form of text messages and online chats by the time a contested matter goes to trial.