Can The Police Get a Geofencing Warrant in Los Angeles, CA?

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At its most basic, geofencing is a service that triggers an action when a device enters a set location. Say you get within 30 feet of your favorite coffee shop. Your phone might just buzz, letting you know that you’ve got a coupon for a latte. 

That’s the benign use. More or less.

Geofencing gets considerably less benign in the hands of law enforcement. These warrants allow law enforcement to contact companies like Google to grab anonymized data from every device that was in a specific area at a specific time. When police think they’ve found a suspect, they then use that to go back for more specific user information. People who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, minding their business, can find themselves accused of crimes they didn’t commit based solely upon their location data. 

Between 2018 and 2020 agencies operating in the state of California requested 3,655 geofence warrants. Law enforcement loves them. They use them primarily for robberies, burglaries, and murders, but they’ve also used them to harass protesters. 

How do geofencing warrants work?

First, the police draw a border around a predefined geographical area. For example, they might draw a 5-mile radius around the location of a robbery. They then ask to search for a specific time frame related to the crime, such as 2:00 am to 3:00 am. 

They then gather data on users who entered that area during a specific amount of time. When they think that they have a hit, based on that location data, they then request more information from the company, including identifying information. This tends to generate an awful lot of false positives. For example, a 2019 geofence warrant in connection with an arson resulted in 1,500 device identifiers being sent to the ATF.

Why is geofencing used?

Police like to use geofencing because it allows them to search data before they even have a suspect. It creates a sort of pre-case against whomever they target, because they can already tie the target to the location of the crime. 

What can your defense lawyer do about geofencing?

Usually Google will send you a notice if you’ve been swept up by a geofence warrant. You  have a very small window of time to respond: just a week or two to oppose the data release. If you catch it in time, it’s a good idea to call a lawyer, both to get help opposing the release and to protect you if you get arrested on the basis of geofencing. 

Challenges have already been made to geofencing warrants in court. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has already ruled that geofencing warrants are too broad in scope to avoid violating the 4th Amendment. Your attorney might also be able to challenge geofencing “evidence” on 4th Amendment grounds.

If not, your lawyer can help challenge the case on other grounds, especially if there is no other evidence.

Don’t wait and don’t hand your case over to a public defender who doesn’t have time to look at all the facts. Reach out to the experienced defense lawyers at Greco Neyland to protect your freedom today.

See also:

How to Exercise Your 5th Amendment Rights After a Los Angeles Arrest

What Should You Do If There is a Warrant Out for Your Arrest in Los Angeles? 

What to Do If Police Are at the Door of Your Los Angeles Home

Can The Police Get a Geofencing Warrant in Los Angeles, CA?

inne-rpage-seperator

At its most basic, geofencing is a service that triggers an action when a device enters a set location. Say you get within 30 feet of your favorite coffee shop. Your phone might just buzz, letting you know that you’ve got a coupon for a latte. 

That’s the benign use. More or less.

Geofencing gets considerably less benign in the hands of law enforcement. These warrants allow law enforcement to contact companies like Google to grab anonymized data from every device that was in a specific area at a specific time. When police think they’ve found a suspect, they then use that to go back for more specific user information. People who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, minding their business, can find themselves accused of crimes they didn’t commit based solely upon their location data. 

Between 2018 and 2020 agencies operating in the state of California requested 3,655 geofence warrants. Law enforcement loves them. They use them primarily for robberies, burglaries, and murders, but they’ve also used them to harass protesters. 

How do geofencing warrants work?

First, the police draw a border around a predefined geographical area. For example, they might draw a 5-mile radius around the location of a robbery. They then ask to search for a specific time frame related to the crime, such as 2:00 am to 3:00 am. 

They then gather data on users who entered that area during a specific amount of time. When they think that they have a hit, based on that location data, they then request more information from the company, including identifying information. This tends to generate an awful lot of false positives. For example, a 2019 geofence warrant in connection with an arson resulted in 1,500 device identifiers being sent to the ATF.

Why is geofencing used?

Police like to use geofencing because it allows them to search data before they even have a suspect. It creates a sort of pre-case against whomever they target, because they can already tie the target to the location of the crime. 

What can your defense lawyer do about geofencing?

Usually Google will send you a notice if you’ve been swept up by a geofence warrant. You  have a very small window of time to respond: just a week or two to oppose the data release. If you catch it in time, it’s a good idea to call a lawyer, both to get help opposing the release and to protect you if you get arrested on the basis of geofencing. 

Challenges have already been made to geofencing warrants in court. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has already ruled that geofencing warrants are too broad in scope to avoid violating the 4th Amendment. Your attorney might also be able to challenge geofencing “evidence” on 4th Amendment grounds.

If not, your lawyer can help challenge the case on other grounds, especially if there is no other evidence.

Don’t wait and don’t hand your case over to a public defender who doesn’t have time to look at all the facts. Reach out to the experienced defense lawyers at Greco Neyland to protect your freedom today.

See also:

How to Exercise Your 5th Amendment Rights After a Los Angeles Arrest

What Should You Do If There is a Warrant Out for Your Arrest in Los Angeles? 

What to Do If Police Are at the Door of Your Los Angeles Home

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