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What does a StingRay have to do with criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2017 | criminal law | 0 comments

Law enforcement agencies have massive, sophisticated resources at their disposal. This is particularly true for federal agencies.

The use of advanced technology and tools shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but some are more secretive and controversial than others are. For instance, police departments across the nation are utilizing cell site simulators called StingRays to collect cellphone data, and it’s raising some serious concerns.

What do they do?

As noted in this report by the Associated Press, StingRays mimic cell towers allowing police to determine where a person is based on the location of his or her phone. Cellphones constantly send out and receive signals, even when people aren’t actively using their phones. The StingRays can collect this — and sometimes other — data within a certain radius.

Why is this a problem?

One reason why many people, including privacy and civil liberty groups, take issue with the use of StingRays stems from the fact that they can collect data that would otherwise require a warrant. This includes call and text conversations and information people store on their phones.

Another issue is their secretive use. The devices are about the size of a suitcase and they can essentially be put in any neighborhood or any location without people’s knowledge. This can be especially troubling, considering they can collect information from anyone’s phone, not just the intended target.

What this means for criminal cases in Pennsylvania

The use of StingRays has already come under fire in criminal cases. In fact, convictions have been overturned in some cases involving evidence collected with StingRays. State and federal lawmakers are questioning if and how to address their use, leaving decisions in the hands of individual courts for now.

New technology and unusual evidence collection methods should be put under considerable scrutiny in any criminal case. If you are facing criminal allegations, you would be wise to work with attorneys who understand this and can challenge not just the evidence against you, but also the methods used to collect it.