Cell phones are amazing pieces of technology that not only allow us to connect with friends and family, but to use various tools—like GPS mapping tools—to navigate the world. Cell phones are a technology that most people fully depend on in 2021, and often store private data on as such. If police are able to tap into a cell phone to view its contents or track it, there could be incriminating information.
However, police are limited by the law when it comes to tracking cell phones and viewing phones’ contents. Here’s what you should know about police tracking by cell phone in Massachusetts and your rights under the law—
Can Police Lawfully Track a Suspect’s Cell Phone?
In April of 2019, the state of Massachusetts’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, ruled that police access to real-time phone data location—in other words, tracking someone on their cell phone or pinpointing their location through their cell phone—is a violation of one’s reasonable expectation to privacy. The case, Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Almonor, sets a precedent that will require the police to get a warrant before they can use real-time location data to pinpoint a suspect’s location.
Can the Police Search Your Cell Phone?
Cell phones may contain evidence of communications, photos, records, or other data that ties someone to a crime. In order to search your cell phone, the police must have one of three things:
- Your permission. If you are asked to consent to the search of your phone while you are stopped by police, you should say “no.” Respectfully declining a search of your phone or other personal property is within your rights.
- A warrant. In the vast majority of cases, police officers will need to obtain a warrant before they are lawfully allowed to search the contents of your cell phone. If they do not have a warrant and they search your phone, your rights are likely being breached.
- Extenuating circumstances. In some cases, police officers may be able to search your phone, even if they have neither your permission nor a warrant. This is the case when extenuating circumstances make the search legal. For example, if you resist arrest and flee and drop your phone along the way, the police may have legal grounds to search it.
What Happens if Your Constitutional Rights Are Violated?
If your Constitutional rights are violated, either because the police search your phone without your permission/a warrant or because you are tracked using your cell phone without the police having a warrant, any evidence that is obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights cannot be used against you. This means that the prosecution may have to drop its charges against you, or that its case won’t be nearly as strong.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
When you are facing criminal charges, it’s essential to have a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer on your side who can work hard to defend you against charges and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. For a consultation with our skilled Massachusetts defense attorney, call The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski at (978) 397-0011 or send us a message online today.