All year long there has been a debate in the public sphere seeking to balance personal privacy and national security. In the case of terrorism, there is greater consensus that the government should be free to investigate the mobile devices and computers of terrorists and suspected terrorists. This spring the U.S. government launched a public campaign to highlight the refusal of Apple to unlock the cellphone of the San Bernardino, California shooters as they investigated the December 2015 mass shooting. Beyond national security and terrorism cases however, there are safeguards in the criminal justice system that attempt to create a fair playing field for the accused and the government players charged with investigating them for crimes.

More than at any time in history the average person on his or her smartphone has the ability to carry all kinds of private information – some of it is stored to keep a record or gain quick access to information as the person goes about his or her daily business. There is a certain degree of an expectation of privacy on mobile devices, as evidenced by the prevalence of password protection and security functions to even turn on the device. People often want the information private from their own spouses, parents, or children.

What is Appropriate and What is out of Bounds in Digital Criminal Investigations?

The fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Cases that challenge the application of the fourth amendment by law enforcement focus on the content itself. For the most part, a search warrant is required to access content on a cell phone, like documents stored in the cloud or the contents of an email. Other information is not protected and does not require a search warrant to access. Instead, law enforcement officials can request information from a third party service provider like Google and access your location information if you are under a criminal investigation without your knowledge and without a search warrant.

The Apple saga pointed out the difficulty law enforcement has in breaking passcodes as part of its criminal investigations. The FBI director, James Comey, revealed that hundreds of phones were waiting to be analyzed, stalling criminal investigations around the country. This digital information that can be collected and analyzed without a search warrant adds to a long list of information that law enforcement can collect from criminal defendants. This list includes items such as the sender and receiver of an email, along with the date and time the email was sent, received, and read for example.

DWI Defense in Plano, Texas

At The Law Office of Kimberly Griffin Tucker, P.C., we represent people accused of DWI in the Plano and Denton areas of Texas. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DWI, contact us for a case evaluation. We will provide you with a comprehensive look at your case, what you can expect, and what steps are available to resolve your DWI arrest.