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How police side-step the law to gain private information

Law enforcement has many ways to convince you to relinquish your rights. If you are unaware of your civil rights or the boundaries over which police may not cross, you may unknowingly surrender critical privileges, including your right to privacy.

When Colorado police suspect you of committing a crime, they cannot simply come into your home or car and search for evidence. If you do not grant your consent for them to search, there is a strict procedure they must follow, including presenting probable cause to obtain a warrant. However, you may not be aware of ways in which investigators can obtain information about you without the need for a warrant.

Your email is not safe

No matter how carefully you use privacy controls for your cyber presence, police can often access that information, sometimes with little effort. While laws are changing to increase protection for privacy rights, the fact remains that your digital data does not always belong to you.

For example, you may think your emails have the same protections as any correspondence that comes through the Post Office. This is not true. In fact, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only protects the privacy of emails stored in the cloud that are less than 180 days old. A court may subpoena older data, including photos and drafts you may never have sent, without a warrant or probable cause, although some internet companies are taking a stand to protect their customers.

Social media and other records

If your social media accounts are private, police must obtain a warrant to see what you keep hidden. However, there is nothing to stop investigators from using surveillance software that monitors your keywords and even bypasses your privacy setting. Police may also set up fake accounts to gain access to your information.

Some other ways in which police may legally obtain information from you without a warrant include the following:

  • Obtaining phone logs from your cellular provider
  • Reading text messages older than 180 days
  • Using your IP addresses to locate you
  • Requesting tower dumps to build a history of your locations through the tracking of your cellphone signal

As the laws evolve, police may have less freedom to use these loopholes to build their cases. Meanwhile, you may fear that law enforcement investigators have violated your rights to gather evidence against you. Gaining a thorough understanding of the protections of the law is the first step to building a strong criminal defense.

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