Police Using A Cell Tower Device Called ‘StingRay’ To Monitor Cellphones Without A Warrant

Over the past year and a half there’s been an increased level of awareness with regards to the various ways state, local and federal officials monitor the patterns and lives of ordinary American citizens by tracking the various communication technologies we all use. Edward  Stingray Criminal Law Search WarrantSnowden is a very polarizing individual due to the incredibly sensitive and damaging nature of  U.S. secrets he made available by revealing the NSA’s Prism program, but it can be argued his whistle-blowing (whether right or wrong) started a conversation about our liberties being violated by virtue of officials identifying and listening in on people without a court ordered search warrant. One device that has come under increased scrutiny is called Stingray.

Stingrays, also known as cell tower simulators or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information no matter if the phone is turned on or off. When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby. The ACLU contends that state and local law enforcement all over the country now possess Stingray devices that formerly had only been used by federal intelligence agencies.

A case just ruled on this past February in Tallahassee, Florida involves a twenty year old male, Tadrae Mackenzie, and two of his friends who allegedly robbed a pot dealer of $130 worth of marijuana using BB guns. Under Florida law, this offense could constitute robbery with a deadly weapon subject to a sentence of at least four years in prison. But before trial, McKenzie’s defense team detected investigators’ use of a Stingray device. The State Judge ordered the police and the prosecutor to present the Stingray to McKenzie’s attorneys. Rather than show the equipment, the State offered McKenzie a plea bargain whereby he is now serving six months probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor.

The ACLU has further identified 51 agencies in 21 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays, but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy it’s difficult to know for certain exactly which police departments own and use these devices. According to Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV, it’s not known if any Tennessee law enforcement departments are using Stingray.

The bottom line is if you have been arrested for a similar criminal offense as the Florida case mentioned and you detect that the police somehow knew more than they should have without obtaining a search warrant, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who is privy to such listening devices and who will fight to get justice for you. Contact Donna Wagner for to schedule a consultation.

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