New Technology Can Lead to Criminal Prosecution
A Florida woman is headed to trial after being ratted out – by her Fitbit. The woman called 911 earlier this year to report that she had been raped by a “man in boots” who had entered the home at which she was staying while she was asleep, dragged her out of bed, and raped her with a bottle. However, the woman’s story soon began to unravel. The physical evidence police discovered at the scene of the alleged crime did not appear to match up to the woman’s story. One particularly inculpatory piece of evidence was the woman’s Fitbit account information. The “Fitbit” is an electronic bracelet that monitors certain vital signs of the wearer. It can also track the wearer’s location. After getting permission from the woman to search her Fitbit’s data, it was discovered that the entire night of the alleged rape the woman was out and walking about and had not gone to bed as she reported she had.
The woman now faces several charges including making a false report.
The Downside of Technology
It seems that every week a new device or program is created that is supposed to make our lives easier. The Fitbit is one of several devices on the market designed to make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle. The Fitbit monitors the wearer’s activity, sleep, food, and weight and can deliver that information to a mobile “app” that allows the wearer to monitor his or her health trends over time.
Fitbit, like many other apps and programs on the market, may contain a global positioning system, or GPS. This system can not only display your location at any given moment (helping prevent you from becoming lost), but your location at a given moment in the past may be recorded for future retrieval.
A Law Enforcement Officer’s Dream
As we invent new devices – especially ones that track the user’s location and movement – your activities will become less and less private. But this does not mean that law enforcement activities are unrestrained. They searched this woman’s Fitbit account because she consented to the search and allowed officers to look at her Fitbit data. Consenting to a search is one way by which law enforcement officers can avoid having to get a search warrant. Officers will almost always try to obtain consent to search something if they believe it may help an investigation – your house, your car, your purse, your backpack, your cellphone, and now (apparently) your Fitbit.
You do not have to consent to a search of your person or property. Your Fourth Amendment rights protect you from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If you refuse to consent to a search, law enforcement must apply to the court to obtain a search warrant and demonstrate probable cause (a legal standard) that the place they want to search is likely to contain evidence of a crime. If they cannot meet that standard – or if they attempt to search without a warrant – they may very well be prohibited from using any criminal evidence they find.
Make sure your rights are protected. Defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is committed to helping clients charged with or investigated for criminal offenses ensure that law enforcement respects their rights. Before consenting to a search, or if you believe your rights have been violated and you have been charged with a crime, call the law office of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in South Florida today for a free consultation.