Illinois Stingray Law Headed to the Governor

Joliet Cell Phone TrackingOver the last few years, cell phone technology has been a major point of contention between law enforcement and the general public. Police and investigative agencies, as one might expect, have sought to exploit available technology to track and build cases against alleged criminals and those who were known to have committed crimes. That very same technology, however, can be used in a manner that feels very threatening to private, law-abiding citizens. Legislation and case law around the country have been slowly limiting how law enforcement officials can access, use, and store digital information, several cases even going all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police and other investigative bodies may not search a person’s cell phone without a warrant. While many heralded the ruling as a victory for the Fourth Amendment rights, cell phones can offer a great deal of information even without being physically searched. Many police departments have begun using devices that mimic a cell phone tower, allowing officials to track cell phones within a certain radius. The most popular brand of cell-site simulator is known as a Stingray, and at least a dozen states, including Illinois, have legislation pending that would limit the use of such devices.

Stingray Success Stories
Stingrays and similar devices essentially collect data being transmitted by mobile phones within a certain area, allowing police to look for and track targeted individuals. This makes the tool very valuable, as it has helped law enforcement capture suspects wanted for murders, robberies, and rapes. The problem, however, is the potential for abuse, as the device is also collecting data on completely innocent—and unaware—private citizens, allowing police to track their every move and creating a record.

Limiting the Power

The U.S. Justice Department has issued guidelines for using Stingrays, typically requiring a warrant for most cases and setting limits on how long tracking data can be kept. Lawmakers in Illinois are now looking to hold state and municipal police departments accountable to the federal standards.

In June of this year, the House and Senate approved a bill that would require a court order to locate and track phones, except in an emergency. When the police know which phone they are looking for, the measure requires the deletion of all other phones’ data within 24 hours. If the police do not know which device to target, the proposed law would provide 72 hours to analyze the collected data and delete non-targeted information. Having passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the bill now awaits a decision by the governor.

Protecting Your Rights

If you have been charged with a crime based on evidence collected in a search that unduly compromised your right to privacy, you need an attorney who will fight for you. Contact experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer Jack L. Zaremba today for a free, no-obligation consultation. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Zaremba understands the law and is fully prepared to help you protect your rights. Call 815-740-4025 to get the representation you deserve.