By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Yes, police can track your phone.
Smart phones, car infotainment systems, and computers have absolutely revolutionized criminal investigation and criminal law.
While these forensic practices are very cutting edge and revolutionary – they are still somewhat impractical depending on the case. Legally there are obstacles for law enforcement too – but those are typically overcome.
The intersection between liberty and technology is always evolving and it always will. Courts recognize people have privacy interests in our phones, cars and computers for which we increasingly rely – but the more advanced the technology – the more tempting and simple it is for law enforcement to attain.
For example, cell tower triangulation currently requires not only knowing specific information about the device but also requires getting records from the carrier. A car infotainment download is very expensive but it can tell law enforcement anything the car has communicated to the driver such as GPS data, lane assist warnings or car door openings.
Tracking cell phones requires lots of work which might include search warrants for records and even fighting with the likes of AT&T or Sprint – but it is possible and can be extremely valuable to police.
I rarely see cell phone tracking in cases such as driving while intoxicated, theft, or even sexual assault. Cell phone triangulation and tracking are common in homicide cases, kidnapping cases and other high-profile cases. Also, civil lawsuits might have cell phone tracking evidence because a party is willing to shell out the money to pay for it.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is recognized as a Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.