New Higher Standard for Tracking Devices in Texas
One of the many laws that recently went into effect in Texas on September 1, 2021, involves the requirements for law enforcement to utilize tracking devices or location information as part of a criminal investigation or arrest process. SB 112 changes the steps that officers must take, and if they fail to take proper steps or demonstrate probable cause, an arrest based on unlawful tracking might allow a defendant to challenge subsequent charges.
If you were arrested after being tracked by the police, it is a legally complex situation, and you should consult with a Plano, TX, criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Probable Cause for Tracking Devices
Before, police officers needed reasonable suspicion of a crime to use mobile tracking devices for suspects. However, the new law increases the standard for tracking device usage, as law enforcement officers now must demonstrate probable cause of the following when applying for a tracking device:
- That a crime has or will be committed
- The tracking device is likely to lead to information regarding the criminal activity
Changes Regarding Cellular Location Data
Since the rise of cell phones, law enforcement officers and investigators have been able to request information from companies regarding cellular data for various purposes. Often this data was used to locate fugitives or even try to resolve kidnappings or other life-threatening situations. Agencies relied on the cellular data provisions of Texas state law regarding search warrants to justify such requests.
In recent years, many companies that handle cellular data started refusing to hand over information based on the existing state law alone, claiming that this law did not apply to cell-site data showing someone’s immediate location. Lawmakers proposed SB 112 to try to balance the privacy rights of individuals with the need for law enforcement to obtain location data under certain circumstances.
Specifically, the new law sets out the following:
- Law enforcement officers require a warrant to get electronically-stored location data, and the warrant must meet all the requirements of other warrants for cellular data.
- The warrant application must have sufficient support by a sworn affidavit, which puts forth substantial facts that demonstrate the agency has probable cause.
- Probable cause in this situation must establish that the disclosure of the data will lead to evidence of a criminal offense currently under investigation or the apprehension of a fugitive.
- Law enforcement can demand emergency disclosure of such information without first obtaining a warrant if the officer believes there is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate access to someone’s location before a warrant could properly be obtained. This only applies if the officer has sufficient probable cause that would support a warrant if time permitted, and the officer must obtain a warrant within 48 hours.
The state prosecutor cannot use any evidence stemming from mobile tracking or location data obtained without a warrant not supported by probable cause.
Speak with a Plano Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
Moving forward, any cases involving the tracking of suspects should be carefully reviewed by an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the law firm of J. Michael Price II for assistance today.