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Reverse Warrants


You’ve heard of a search warrant and an arrest warrant.  But are you familiar with reverse warrants?  If not, you should be, because they are used with regularity all over the country, and they can impact you in ways you’d never imagine. The fact of the matter is, these reverse warrants have eliminated the concrete obstacles to surveillance that once kept surveillance under control, allowing technology to sweep up enormous quantities of private information, without law enforcement ever having identified a particular criminal suspect or showing probable cause that the evidence they are seeking will be found in a corporate database that is being searched.

Florida resident Zachary McCoy found out just how dangerous these warrants can be when he was considered a suspect in a home robbery after his location on a bike ride put him in the area of the crime scene around the time of the robbery. Although McCoy was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, he had to spend several thousand dollars defending himself and his privacy before investigators cut him loose.

Common Reverse Warrants 

Law enforcement personnel have been using reverse warrants for years, and organizations like the ACLU have been increasingly alarmed.  That’s because such warrants look at wide groups of people, most of whom are not even suspected of criminal activity. These warrants have several uses, but the most widely used include:

  • Geofence, or reverse location warrants identify anyone who was in a certain area during a particular time;
  • Reverse keyword warrants identify those who entered specific words or phrases into search engines during a particular time frame, often in a specific area.

Numbers to Get Your Attention 

The biggest target of reverse warrants, Google, has experienced an increase of over 1,000 percent in federal reverse warrants during a two-year period, with an over 800 percent increase in state and/or local law enforcement reverse warrants over the same time period. In a single year, that meant nearly 2,000 warrants for Google alone.

Google’s Efforts to Out 

It seems obvious to many that throwing out a wide net in hopes of catching an unnamed criminal is invasive and unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search, after all. Google’s response to the pressure building to involve them in data collection led them to move location data storage to user’s phones rather than keeping it in the hands of the corporation. That takes Google out of the geofence equation, being that they will no longer have access to user’s location information. As a result, fewer innocents will be dragged into law enforcement dragnets.

Reverse Keyword Searches

 Issues with reverse keyword searches remain concerning, as it is another example of the government throwing a huge net out in the hopes of finding an unknown criminal. There is virtually unchecked government access to the computer searches of countless Americans whose involvement in criminal activity is nonexistent.

Have You Been Caught Up in a Reverse Warrant? 

If you’ve been snagged with the use of a reverse warrant, it’s possible you are facing serious criminal charges.  While the courts have not ruled these warrants as unconstitutional, they do say that technology that is so intrusive deserves a higher level of judicial scrutiny. The Miami criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos always fight for the best possible outcomes for you.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our Miami office today.




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