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Can The Cops Use Location Tracking on Your Phone to Identify You as a Suspect?

There was a day in the not too distant past where cell phones were exactly that – phones. You could use them to make calls and send messages. But that was pretty much it. Now, a cell phone is nothing short of a tiny computer, connecting you to the entire world and placing almost limitless data at your fingertips. But while we love the ease of being able to check email on the go, keep up with our many social media platforms from just about anywhere, and do everything from read the news to play games at the drop of a hat, there’s a price to pay for all of this convenience. And we’re not talking about money here. (We’re talking about how your location tracking data can be used and abused by the police!)

A close up of a hand holding a cell phone.

Your life isn’t private anymore if you own a smartphone!

Everywhere you go, and everything you do on your phone is being tracked. Data is being collected on the websites you visit, the apps you use, the information you share, and the places you go. People tend to think of their phones as a one-way portal into the web from their end, but it’s actually a two-way street. Every move you make is being tracked, whether you’re working in Battle Creek, shopping in Lansing, or visiting loved ones in Midland or Caro, and could be used at a later date by police to link you to a crime scene. Companies like Facebook and Google collect and then sell your data to advertisers. Even if you had nothing to do with the crime in question. But is that legal? Are they allowed to do that? 

You have Constitutional rights as a US citizen. 

As a resident of the state of Michigan, you have certain Constitutional rights. You’re protected from 4th Amendment violations under United States law. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, which means that it’s your legal right to NOT be searched (which includes having your property searched) or having your belongings and assets seized if there isn’t probable cause to suspect criminal activity, or the officers involved have a warrant from the court authorizing them to do so. 

The Michigan Constitution was recently clarified to protect your rights!

In November of 2020, the people of Michigan voted yes on Ballot Proposal 20-2, which enhanced Michigan’s laws regarding the search and seizure of electronic data. According to the updated Michigan law, “The person, houses, papers, possessions, and electronic data and electronic communications of every person shall be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. No warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things or to access electronic data or electronic communications shall issue without describing them, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.” In other words, the police can’t access the location tracking information in your cell phone without a warrant.

What happens to the data companies gather about your location?

Google gathers location data (called geofencing) from people using Google Maps and similar apps on their mobile devices. Although they claim to only store location tracking info for account holders who’ve chosen to use the “location history” feature, and it’s automatically deleted after 18 months, there have been many cases where police have accessed this data (using geofencing warrants) and used it to bring criminal charges. (We’ve seen this used in criminal cases in Lansing, Brighton and Grand Rapids!) Defense attorneys say it’s a violation of privacy and Constitutional rights, but prosecutors claim it’s a valuable tool for law enforcement in doing their jobs. There are judges who agree with the police, and Judges who are very concerned about violations of citizen’s rights. So what does that mean for you?

It means you need an excellent lawyer if you’re accused of a crime!

If you’ve been accused of a crime you’re going to need help from an expert in criminal defense, whether or not the police have used location tracking information or a geofencing warrant to pinpoint you at the scene of the crime. At The Kronzek Firm we’ve helped countless people over the decades, from Ingham, Eaton, Kent and Oakland Counties, and all over the lower peninsula of Michigan, to defend their rights and their freedoms against criminal accusations. Wherever you live in the in Michigan’s lower peninsula, we can help. Call 866 766 5245 (866 7NoJail) to ensure that your legal team is top notch, and your defense is as strong as possible. Our phones answer 24/7 for emergency crisis intervention. 

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