Police ask wireless providers to record and store text messages

Police ask wireless providers to record and store text messages

Police ask wireless providers to record and store text messages

Throughout the day, the average cellphone user may send a handful of text messages to his or her contacts. Some texts carry big news, while others are as insignificant as asking what is for dinner. However, something law enforcement officers understand is that law-abiding citizens are not the only people who own cellphones. Criminals also use these devices, and there is the belief that some of the text messages they send and receive could include incriminating evidence.

Law enforcement groups want access to text message logs
The world has evolved, and many law enforcement groups, including the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, National Sheriffs’ Association and National District Attorneys’ Association, believe the laws regarding people’s private text messages must change as well, CNET reported. Members of these groups would like to see Congress make it so wireless providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, record and store text information for at least two years.

Those who hold law enforcement jobs believe that not requiring these companies to store their customers’ text messages has the potential to hinder police investigations. After all, texts have been useful in many cases related to everything from armed robbery to wire fraud. The various law enforcement groups hope lawmakers will take their request into consideration as they update a 1986 privacy law.

“This issue is not addressed in the current proposal before the committee and yet it will become even more important in the future,” the various law enforcement associations warned, as quoted by the news source.

Concern exists over police access to text message logs
As should be expected, there are those who are concerned over wireless companies not only storing their text messages, but giving law enforcement increased access to their private exchanges. According to Fox News, many privacy groups are not pleased with the idea of more government in their life.

“I just think that’s more government control, it’s big brother,” Leslie Brown, a North Carolina resident, told the news source. “One more step into just total control of our lives.”

Courts are inconsistent in terms of cellphone evidence
No matter how people feel about police having access to text message logs, it is clear that judges and lawmakers nationwide need to be on the same page in this increasingly technological world.

“The courts are all over the place,” Hanni Fakhoury, a criminal lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, told The New York Times. “They can’t even agree if there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages that would trigger Fourth Amendment protection.”

In Rhode Island, a judge overseeing a case involving the murder of a 6-year-old boy criticized the police for using cellphone evidence without first getting a warrant, the news source reported.

Back in October 2009, Trisha Oliver called 911 after finding her son, Marco Nieves, unconscious in bed. Shortly after an ambulance took the boy to the hospital, his mother showed a police officer around her apartment, eventually leaving him alone at the residence while she joined her son. The officer heard beeping in the kitchen, where he found a cellphone with a text message from Oliver’s boyfriend, Michael Patino, who was soon charged with Marco’s murder. However, the judge for the case threw out law enforcement’s cellphone evidence, as the officer in Oliver’s apartment had no right to look at Patino’s text message without a warrant.

If anything, investigations into Marco’s death serve as an example of just how important law enforcement training is when it comes to viewing electronic evidence, such as text messages. As laws are updated, it is equally vital that police officers stay abreast of them, as even the slightest changes could make a difference in the way they conduct investigations.

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