Posted On: April 6, 2012 by Leifert & Leifert

West Palm Beach Felonies & Smartphone Apps

Technology is changing the way police investigate both misdemeanor and felony charges in West Palm Beach.

Our West Palm Beach felony criminal defense attorneys understand that law enforcement officers are lamenting the use of smartphone technology in the hands of individuals who are seeking to evade them.

The debate centers on the police scanner apps that can be downloaded onto almost any smart phone.

It's true that ever-improving technology has given everyone - not just those deemed by law enforcement to be criminal - the access to police scanner data. That's because police communications are transmitted over public airways, on signals that can be captured by almost anyone.

Police worried, for example, that individuals who were committing burglary under FL Statute 810.02 might be armed with a smartphone - or have someone waiting outside who is - and will be alerted to when officers are on their way, and when it's time to flee.

Publications geared toward law enforcement have hyped up smartphones and these applications as the "latest tools for criminals," and as being frequently used by gang members and their associates to spy on police activity.

There has also been a great deal made about the ability of smartphones to allow youth to coordinate a quick gathering of hundreds of individuals on a single street - whether for a party or a fight or anything else.

One local neighborhood watch president said drug dealers used to be out on the street corners, communicating with walkie-talkies. Smartphones, she said, have allowed drug dealers to up their game. Not only does it allow swift communication, one person can commit a crime while the other stands as look-out.

However, just because a person has this app, which can be downloaded on Android or the iPhone, does not make them a criminal. The app is perfectly legal - for now, anyway.

Officials in Indiana have determined the apps are illegal to use or download there, though according to various media reports, it's not clear whether state attorneys are actually prosecuting anyone for it.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a federal law passed in 1986, holds that while you are allowed to use scanners in your home or at work, you can't use them for "personal gain," and you can't share the information you hear with others.

And you should be warned, too, that if you do use a scanner - whether on an app or otherwise - to aid in the commission of a crime, the penalties are increased under FL Statute 843.16. This law holds that it's illegal to install or transport "radio equipment" using the frequency of state or law enforcement officers. The law holds exception for private users and news organizations. Violation of this statute would be considered a second-degree misdemeanor.

If you need criminal defense in West Palm Beach, Broward or Fort Lauderdale, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Smartphone apps keep cops on their toes, By Don Crinklaw, The Sun-Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Fort Lauderdale Police Arrests Put Criminal Cases in Jeopardy, Nov. 3, 2011, West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Blog