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You have the right to mute law enforcement’s star witness

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2017 | Criminal defense

Thanks to our exposure to countless police procedurals and crime movies, most Americans are familiar with the rights extended to those brought in for questioning. Whether the scene features an individual being placed in a squad car or interviewed at a police station, the actor interrogated was informed of the right to remain silent. The safeguard against self-incrimination proffered by the Miranda rights is one that Hollywood has taught Americans from an early age.

If you are the subject of a policy inquiry, it isn’t only your silence that is protected by law. A “gag order” of sorts has been established in order to mute the star witness officers typically call on to reveal incriminating information. In many cases, the testimony provided by this witness can pinpoint your whereabouts, identify your friends, and recall conversations made months in the past. Your daily reliance on this witness creates a detailed record of your life and leads law enforcement to seek access whenever possible.

This star witness is your cellphone. With access to the technology that smartphones offer, we have become trained to use our phones almost exclusively to conduct internet searches, communicate with friends, photograph special events or purchase items electronically. In engaging in these activities, however, we are also developing an elaborate record of lives. Taken out of context by an overeager police force, the information contained on these devices could be quite harmful.

It is for this reason that the Supreme Court ruled that access to cellphones was prohibited without court permission. In requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to access a cellphone’s database, the Supreme Court Justices extended protections similar to those reserved for homeowners. American audiences are familiar with this safeguard as well: no warrant, no entry.

While it is just a matter of time before this form of defense plays a part in a Hollywood scene, it’s one that should be utilized now. Should you find yourself the subject of a police investigation and your interrogator asks for your cellphone, do yourself a favor and put your star witness on mute.