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What kind of evidence can the state get from someone’s phone?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Police officers and state prosecutors are often eager to uncover any evidence that could connect someone to criminal activity. Police officers interrogate people and search personal property in pursuit of evidence.

Sometimes, searching electronic devices can yield evidence that leads to someone’s prosecution. Mobile phones and other personal electronic devices are part of people’s daily lived experience. People use their phones to communicate with employers and family members, to navigate their community and to interact with others on social media. Sometimes, police officers can obtain evidence from mobile devices or directly from service providers that could play a major role in someone’s prosecution.

Location information

One of the most important types of evidence in a criminal case is evidence that puts someone at or near the scene of a crime. Decades ago, police officers relied on forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony to prove that someone was present at the scene of a crime. These days, records of where someone’s phone has been can help establish their location. Both records from nearby cellular towers and details captured in images or video could potentially provide key details about someone’s location at the time of a criminal incident.

Social connections

The people that someone knows and regularly communicates with can influence how the state perceives their activity. The people that someone calls, texts, emails or messages on social media can say a lot about their personality and conduct. Both police officers and prosecutors may try to look into someone’s social connections by reviewing mobile phone and social media records. Additionally, the way that someone communicates with others, including threatening language or crass humor, could influence how the state builds a case against them.

Browsing history

What people research online can have a major implication on their criminal case. If someone researched the laws related to a crime right before a criminal incident, that circumstantial evidence could bolster the state’s case. The more questionable or highly-specific web browsing someone has done, the more influence their online activity could have on the court’s perception of their conduct.

Individuals who understand what information the state can glean from mobile devices may be more cautious about protecting their digital records. Knowing and asserting one’s rights during an investigation or after an arrest can help people minimize damaging information that the state could gather.