We previously wrote about a judges ruling stating that your IP address cannot be used as proof of your identity in legal cases, but an IP address is still considered to be strong enough evidence to allow police to search your home. Unfortunately, that leaves many innocent people to have their homes searched and their electronics seized by law enforcement agents trying to hunt down someone who committed a computer crime. If police have obtained a warrant for your home based on your IP address, it is critical you immediately contact a criminal attorney with experience handling complex computer crimes.
Investigating Cyber Crimes Starting with an IP Address
Computer crimes are notoriously difficult to investigate, which is why the San Diego Police Department has a special unit devoted exclusively to handling these types of cases. In many cases, the first and only thing investigators have to go on is an IP address, which can give them a name and address of someone who may be involved with the crime. Unfortunately, most criminals with a basic understanding of computers know this, which is why IP addresses so often lead to innocent people. Many privacy rights advocates and defense lawyers believe with the number of innocent people tied to IP addresses used by criminals that this information shouldn’t be enough evidence to use for a warrant.
An IP Address isn’t Proof of Guilt
Many criminals simply commit crimes by stealing someone else’s wireless internet. Others use services like Tor exit relays, which allow them to anonymously surf the web. As a quick web search will tell you, this can turn the lives of innocent people upside down when the police come knocking. In the case of those who allow others to use their IP for Tor exit relays, it can having your home searched, being subjected to incredibly personal questions and either voluntarily letting the police search your devices or having them seized as evidence for an indeterminate amount of time.
And for one family living in a remote farm in Kansas, an internet mapping glitch has turned their home into a living hell as they happen to live in the default address provided when IP mapping services can’t identify where someone actually lives. These are exactly the kinds of stories that attorneys point to when explaining why letting police use nothing more than an IP address to track down a criminal is a very dangerous idea.
These stories are also excellent reminders as to why you should immediately call a defense lawyer if the police try to ask you questions about computer crimes or if they just show up at your home with a warrant. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to speak with Peter M. Liss at any hour of any day.
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