Cell Phone Evidence Used Frequently to Charge and Convict People
Cell phones have also become an important part of criminal investigations.
Criminals and police are finding that cell phones can provide valuable evidence-and heated controversy-in some criminal cases.
NPR News reports the story of one Colorado high school where students’ cell phones were seized and searched.
School officials found mentions of marijuana use amid some of the text messages, but legal experts question whether the searches were lawful.
Some information discovered in the cell phone raid reportedly entered the students’ discipline files, but the administrators’ actions have met with much controversy.
One student allegedly smashed her cell phone rather than subject it to a search she believed was inappropriate.
Cops Know How to Extract Information from Hard Drives
In New Jersey, police officers undergo rigorous training sessions to learn how to extract information from the hard drive of cell phones, according to NJ.com. Though computer-based information extraction procedures have been in place for years, cell phone investigations are fairly new.
Perhaps one of the most surprising facts about the role of cell phones in criminal law is how often suspects incriminate themselves with evidence from their phones.
The Wall Street Journal highlights the case of Morgan Kipper, a man who insisted he was innocent after being arrested for stealing cars and reselling their parts.
Criminals are Incriminating Themselves on their Phones
Apparently, when police got their hands of Kipper’s camera phone, they found that the wallpaper background was a picture of Kipper in the driver’s seat of a stolen Ferrari. After that, his criminal defense lawyer had a tougher time with the case.
Sources suggest that ordinary cell phone users don’t realize how much information investigators can glean from cell phones-even messages and photos that have been deleted are stored on a phone’s hard drive.
And, with all the new features cell phones have these days (including text messaging options, camera capabilities and video recording devices), police have a greater chance than ever of finding something incriminating for an investigation.
Software companies, too, have become aware of the trend. Vendors are pitching to investigators programs that help download phones’ hard drives, sources report.
Is Your Cell Information Safe?
So how vulnerable is your phone information?
According to reports, police must get a warrant to search cell phone information, but some criminals post photos and videos on the Internet, making such warrants unnecessary.
Experts have commented that cell phones can be trickier to get information from than computers, because so many models of cell phones are out there. But, since most people never leave home without their cells, chances are good that evidence of a crime (if a crime was committed) will be somewhere in a phone.
The moral of the story? Experts suggest not texting anything you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper headline. Oh, and if you commit a crime, don’t snap an image of yourself doing it.