What is the Third Party Doctrine?
While most evidence that could be collected in a federal criminal case is protected by Sixth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, some information that could be used against you is not. That information is covered under the “third party” doctrine.
The “third party” doctrine states that you have no legitimate expectation of privacy in regards to any information that has been turned over to third parties. It has been upheld in a number of Supreme Court cases.
- United States v. Miller (1939) — Gave law enforcement the ability to pull bank records.
- Smith v. Maryland (1979) — Gave law enforcement the ability to pull phone call logs.
There are also a number of Supreme Court cases where the government has declined to extend the third party doctrine.
- United States v. Jones (2012) – Requires the government to seek a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car.
- Carpenter v. United States (2018) — Requires the government to obtain a warrant before pulling cell tower data.
Here in the Information Age, we of course disclose information to third parties every minute of every day simply by walking around on public streets. Our cell phone collects location data. Our computers collect our site histories. Cameras capture images of us walking around, or record our license plate data. There is a concern that the government may gain warrantless access to all of this data with ease. As it is, it is important to understand that the government can get a vast amount of information about you with the help of a warrant, can use geofencing warrants and keyword warrants before they have any suspects at all, and can even try to hack into your cell phone if they get a warrant to do so.
In addition, the 2008 FISA Act gives the NSA the ability to run and execute a warrantless wiretapping program. This program allows the NSA to monitor international phone calls and emails. They are also allowed to monitor people even if those people are not thought to be doing anything wrong, and the “foreign intelligence purposes” that allow them to do so are very broad.
The Third Party Doctrine in Your Criminal Case
When we take on a new case we examine it closely to see if any evidence has been obtained in violation of your Sixth Amendment rights, and we work to have that evidence expunged whenever possible. However, there are certain instances in which the judge might have leeway to include evidence that we’d rather not see included.
Nevertheless, we will work hard to protect your rights from every available legal angle, and will do our best to help you mitigate the consequences of any criminal charges you might be facing.
If you or a loved one is in trouble, don’t delay. Reach out to Koch Law to get help today.
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