Protecting Your Rights, Defending Your Future

What is a geofence warrant?

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2020 | Criminal defense | 0 comments

Technology seems to surround us no matter where we go. What seemed to start as smartphones became smart TVs and other smart devices.

In many ways, smart devices make our lives more convenient. Instead of entering your location, your phone always knows where you are. Now, however, some jurisdictions are allowing police to get warrants that include certain location information.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about geofence warrants.

Who provides the information?

Typically, a geofence warrant calls on Google to access its database of location information. The order will indicate a small area where the incident occurred and a window of time when it happened.

What kind of information do officers receive?

The information comes in three phases. The first is a list of anonymized data from the phones in the area during the specified time. The police will try to work with the data to limit the number of people on the list.

As the officers look at the data, they try to create a smaller list of more likely suspects. During this second step, the police can request more information, but the data still does not include identifying information. Instead, the information may consist of where the devices traveled before and after the timeframe.

During the final step, officers narrow the list further, and once they have a more limited list, they can get the names and email addresses of the owners of the devices.

How accurate are they?

The challenging part about geofence warrants is that the data will include innocent people, and sometimes someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While a seemingly effective strategy for using Google location data, there have been times when an innocent person fit similar parameters as the one who committed the crime.

Your fourth amendment rights

In some states, legal teams are questioning whether geofence warrants should be admissible in court, arguing that the fourth amendment should protect the information. While Google currently follows certain steps to provide personal data, there is little legal oversight of the process once the warrant is in place. The information from a geofence warrant could lead to charges for the wrong person.

Finding out how police reached your information can be confusing and intimidating. It is essential to talk to a knowledgeable attorney when faced with any kind of criminal charges.