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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Why probable cause isn't required to access online data

A person who uses Facebook or Twitter may unwittingly have their information handed over to authorities in California or other states. The same may be true of those who use Venmo, Lyft or Uber. Property owners who use the Ring home security system may not know that Amazon will generally provide basic personal information to authorities. This may happen even if the property owners themselves have refused to comply with a request to provide that data.

Only California, Washington and Utah require authorities to get a warrant before accessing a person's online information. In the other 47 states, it may only take a subpoena for a tech company to provide an individual's data to law enforcement or other parties. Unlike a warrant, there is no need to have probable cause to get a subpoena. In the first half of 2017, Uber says that it provided authorities with the personal information of more than 3,000 drivers and customers.

Those who use social media or other apps are encouraged to learn more about how their data may be stored and shared. They should also keep tabs on the information that they provide when using an app. Ideally, the government will do its part by making sure that data is secured stored during investigations and destroyed after the case is closed.

Individuals who are charged or convicted of a crime may face a variety of long-term consequences such as spending time in jail, losing a job or losing parental rights to a child. A criminal defense attorney may be able to get a case dismissed or negotiate a favorable plea deal. This might be done by having evidence suppressed prior to a trial or by casting doubt on witness or expert testimony during the trial itself.

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