Is Your Electronic Data Safe from the View of the Government’s Eyes?

In this evolving digital age, vast amounts of personal data are available at your fingertips. This data ranges from text messages, voicemails, photographs, videos, and notes saved on your personal device to emails and posts to social media. Importantly, just because it is “deleted” does not mean that it is permanently erased.  Law enforcement has the capability to recover this information.  Citizens can expect that every text message, social media post, and search of the internet can be recovered and used against you.

Just because this information is out there does not mean the government can get it.

The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement need warrants to search the cellphones of the people they arrest. This law seemingly applies to tablets, laptops and the like. Chief Justice Roberts recognized the importance of these devices in our daily lives stating “such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy,” and “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand, does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

Minnesota specifically is moving in the direction of providing even further protection in the form of a Constitutional amendment ensuring that, “people are secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects.” This is in preliminary discussions and the most recent bill introduced to MN Legislature, to put this question to its citizens, was not approved during the latest session.

As the law currently stands, law enforcement must get a warrant before they can search into your cellphone or other electronic device. It is important to understand that it is their burden to justify their access. The only way for them to access this information without a warrant would be to see justification due to an emergency, or your consent to search. Do not incriminate yourself by giving them consent.

Of course, your electronic privacy becomes even more urgent when you are facing a criminal investigation or charges. Maybe you are being investigated for drug charges and prosecutors are trying to use evidence from your cellphone providers to track your location. They may also try searching through contacts, text messages, facebook posts, or notes to establish an intent to distribute or sell.  Federal law enforcement will use your online communications to attempt to tie you into a conspiracy investigation.  Perhaps you are facing charges for criminal sexual conduct. In these instances, law enforcement routinely search cell phones and tablets for photographs, videos, emails, and text messages in order to gather evidence.  All too often short communications via a deleted text message are recovered and taken out of context to support a broader narrative that a prosecutor is trying to prove.

Just because your information is digital does not mean that the government can trample your Fourth Amendment rights. Protect yourself. Experienced criminal defense attorneys will help you assert your rights.

Sieben & Cotter, PLLC has the experience and resources to provide you with the professional legal representation that you need in order to protect your electronic data. Schedule a comprehensive evaluation of your case at no charge.  Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.