Technology is pretty great overall. It’s given us a much higher standard of living and makes most jobs a lot easier. Computers reduce the time it takes to do almost anything. And of course if it wasn’t for computers or cell phones, you wouldn’t be able to read this blog right now.
But unfortunately, technology has a dark side as well. Sometimes it can give law enforcement a little too much power to invade the privacy of innocent people. And when technology oversteps what the constitution allows, lawmakers need to step in to limit how that technology can be used.
Stingrays: More than Just Marine Animals
Originally developed by the military, stringrays are devices used by law enforcement that act like cell towers. When in use, stringrays can tell police the exact location of a phone, or extract information from the device. Police can also use stringrays to jam the communications of a cell phone.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously in favor of SB 2343, a law that would require police to obtain a warrant for using stringrays in the course of an investigation. Police would also be limited to identifying and tracking cell phones described in a warrant. Violation of the law would result in a presumption that any other evidence obtained by a stingray is inadmissible in court. Police would also be required to destroy any information obtained from cell phones that weren’t described in the warrant. The bill now goes before the Illinois House for consideration.
This legislation comes on the heels of a decision earlier this year by a Cook County judge order the Chicago Police Department to turn over information about its stingray program. The city claimed that having to reveal information about the program would allow criminals to figure out ways around it, disregarding the civil rights of innocent civilians who may be caught up in an investigation involving stingrays.
Stingrays are often provided to local police departments through federal grants. The feds, however, require that investigators sign non-disclosure agreements before using stingrays in their investigations. This prevents police from releasing any information about how stingrays are used. In some cases, police officers have even refused to discuss stingrays while testifying in court. Prosecutors have also been told to withdraw evidence obtained by stingrays if defense attorneys press the issue. The federal government simply doesn’t want to deal with a constitutional challenge to the use of stingrays, which is exactly why it’s so important for state legislatures to consider this issue.
Chicago Criminal Defense Law
If police are investigating a crime, they have to do it within certain constitutional limitations. If evidence is obtained unconstitutionally, it must be suppressed at trial. On appeal, convictions can be vacated if law enforcement officers don’t follow these rules, particularly when new technology is involved in an investigation. For more information about the appellate process, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today to speak with an attorney about your case.