Law enforcement has improved crime fighting technology vastly over the past few years. The internet is often used to commit crimes such as internet sex crimes, identity theft, and terroristic threats. Some citizens concerned with the government’s confirmed spying through sources such Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and have taken steps to attempt to communicate in private. Some internet users attempt to anonymously search online through programs such as TOR (the onion router). While the TOR network can provide some type of anonymity for users who prefer to protect their identity, it can also be used by individuals seeking to participate in illegal activity.
As the bitcoin gained popularity, law enforcement became aware of allegations it was frequently used for illegal activity and, as such, investigations into Silk Road and other networks were infiltrated by law enforcement. While it is clear that law enforcement has the techniques, technology and ability to track many people who believe they are communicating anonymously, issues have arisen as to whether the network investigation techniques and other strategies used by law enforcement violate the Fourth Amendment that protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures.
United State Supreme Court has recently validated many citizens’ concerns about government’s overreach in the search of cell phones in the cases of California v. Davis and United States v. Jones. The courts recognize that we trade a certain amount of interest in technology in order to use the convenience of technology. However, the courts also recognize that some of the privacy we give to internet service providers and others who help us to thrive in a tech savvy nation does not necessarily mean that we have given the government the right to track our movements and inquiries. Often in cases involving law enforcement infiltration networks that involve the sale of illegal drugs, firearms, or child pornography the issue does not become whether law enforcement can find these things, but whether they can do so lawfully. If law enforcement, through an illegal technique or other process, obtains a citizen’s private and constitutionally protected information, it can be suppressed or thrown out of court in the event criminal charges are filed.
While the public expects the government to protect it from terrorists and other threats, citizens also expect that their right to privacy will be protected by their government and that the constitution will be upheld by the government. In cases where the person is arrested and the person believes that the arrest or the search that led to the arrest was made in violation of their constitutional rights, criminal defense attorneys must act as the watch dogs and vigilantly protect the constitutional rights of the citizens regardless of the crime accused.