Legal Impediments on Technology Based Evidence in Criminal Investigations
This capstone project entitled “Legal Impediments on Technology Based Evidence in Criminal Investigations” explores the issue of the legal impediments that currently exist based on outdated laws, which in some cases have kept law enforcement officials from being able to access information from locked or otherwise inaccessible technology devices such as phones or smart speakers, to be used as evidence in criminal investigations. Throughout the paper, cases that support this claim are explored, including the case of a man who was found dead at a home which an Amazon Echo was found but could not be fully utilized as evidence, as the information on the Echo was not stored locally. This paper also explores the various legal avenues available to law enforcement officials to force citizens and companies to release private information held on technology devices, and the recent rulings that have made enforcing such requests challenging. The results of this capstone demonstrate that there is a gap in the legal authority of the federal government to require technology companies to comply with certain subpoenas that would burden the technology company/owner of the technology; even if it is suspected that the information that would be obtained from the device would help to solve a crime. The solution proposed as a part of this capstone would offer potential relief of the issue without directly imposing additional privacy laws—which may be hard to pass due to partisan lines—however, the cost of the proposal, along with the proposed solution being optional instead of law creates potential for the lack of adaption and/or success. Nonetheless, the proposed policy may be attractive to technology companies, as they would be able to share the burden of responsibility of data ownership with the federal government. Although this is a risk for the government, owning data that could help solve crime would significant reduce the time and effort required by law enforcement to obtain such information, which may be considered worth the risk.