Criminal Defense

Can Police Track Who You Call on Your Phone?

August 05, 2022 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  Special Report  
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Wiretapping by Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers can begin investigating you without your knowledge or being informed. Phones contain much sensitive information that should not be privy to everyone. On the contrary, law enforcement officers, if they are investigating you, have a legal right to examine whatever you do in public or under the confines of your home.

Can police track and listen to conversations that you make? Yes, they can hear and track conversations under certain conditions.

If you are being suspected of criminal activity, the police will obtain an order for a wiretap. Since it is considered a huge infringement of an individual’s privacy, strict procedures have been set in place for law enforcement officers.

Before beginning any eavesdropping, they have to acquire the wiretap order first. Due to wiretaps being intrusive, they are a bit complicated to obtain. The officers have to prove a probable cause that ensures that listening to your private conversations will help solve a serious crime. Such crimes might include; terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, or money laundering. The police officers must give an affidavit that identifies suspicious criminal activity on the monitored person.

The police can also obtain a warrant that reveals location information through cellphone data.

What are the Restrictions on Wiretapping?

Police officers cannot listen to your private conversations on your phone if you are an ordinary citizen unless they have a wiretap order. Though this does not apply to prisoners as they have fewer privacy rights. Calls made from inside the prison to the people outside are constantly monitored.

Police officers are prohibited from listening to conversations indefinitely, meaning they can only listen at certain times. Especially the times that they are likely to obtain their evidence. For example, if the suspect makes phone calls during the evening, they can only listen to the conversations at that time.

There are methods of tapping your phone that might not require a wiretap order. For example, “tap and traces.” Such methods do not record the actual conversations. Instead, they record the phone numbers usually associated with that line. Another popular method is “pen registers,” which record the phone numbers from outgoing calls.

Information That Can Be Acquired from a Wire Tap

If the law enforcement officers go to your cell service provider or Google, they can access information on your text messages and emails if they have a court order.

If the police have a subpoena, they can access emails that date back as far as 180 days, whether they are opened or unopened. In this case, they have to inform the investigated person once they have requested access.

Under certain circumstances, the police can use your cellphone data to track your location. Also, the GPS features on smartphones and cell phone towers might provide them with this information.

If the police have a court order, they can access your current IP addresses. The records must be relevant though to their investigations. If they have an administrative subpoena, they can access historical IP addresses to retrace your footsteps on where you might have been.

Certain programs can help police officers to save, view and even print your text messages. Also, programs like Decipher Text Message can help the police recover deleted messages.

In addition, the police can use Geofence and Tower dumps, which are considered reverse location searches. Under such circumstances, they search the history of the database, which identifies all users in certain locations at a certain time. Hence, they can narrow the information and pinpoint the devices that were probably involved in the crime.

If you hear unusual sounds while making phone calls or odd background noises like static sounds, it might indicate third parties are listening to your conversations.

Related Articles:

Can Police Search Your Trash Without Infringing On Your Rights?
Can Police Track Who You Call on Your Phone?

Contact a Lawyer

Criminal charges can have serious repercussions on anyone. It is common to wait until you have been charged with a crime to contact an attorney. If you believe the police might be conducting surveillance on your phone calls, it is wise to get a criminal defense attorney. The lawyer will help guide you and also help you make a strong defense might you need one.

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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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December 3, 2019
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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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