Law enforcement agencies are always looking for an edge in fighting crime. As cell phones have become an indispensible part of life for many people, authorities have taken to using these devices to track suspects' locations and movements without their knowledge.
The devices used to do this are called stingrays (or ISMI catchers). Essentially, they act as cellular towers that can trick a cell phone into sending information to it (i.e. pings), thereby giving the cell phone's location. This can allow the police to track the cell phone wherever it goes. Also, when a cell phone connects to a stingray, it reveals the phone's unique ID numbers and traffic data, which can also allow the police to see what numbers have been dialed.
The benefits to the police are obvious. Being able to track a suspect's movements can give authorities the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time in order to foil a crime. However, it can also be a violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights.
If law enforcement authorities want to administer surveillance over a potential suspect, they must establish probable cause and convince a judge of such so that a warrant could be issued before tracking the suspect's whereabouts. However, this does not mean that law enforcement always follows the law. In these instances, one's civil liberties could be at risk.
As such, if you have been arrested or are under investigation for a crime using illegally obtained cell phone data, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you.