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Access To Information During DC Criminal Investigations

If a person is subject to a criminal investigation in Washington, DC, it is imperative that the person first consults with a DC criminal defense attorney to ensure their rights are protected, and second, know what to expect while law enforcement looks for evidence against the person. There are steps that a person can take to legally limit the amount of information that is available to law enforcement.

For more specific information regarding a particular case, call and schedule a consultation today.

Information the Government Can Access

The type of information the government can access largely depends on the type of charge that they are investigating. In any given case, law enforcement can access bank records, business records, or phone records through subpoenas. These records can be important in investigations because evidence like bank records and phone records can indicate the location at specific times which tie individuals to a location to eliminate certain defenses.

Additionally, bills contain a lot of information. They can show, for example where a person resides which allows police to speak with family members and other witnesses.

In addition to this information, police will look for video evidence of the alleged crime. It is not uncommon for cameras to be present throughout the city because of the significant amount of government owned properties in DC. Also, many private businesses have cameras, which is very powerful evidence if footage can be located.

Access to Online Activity During a Criminal Investigation

In certain circumstances, law enforcement agencies can obtain a warrant to monitor a person’s online activities. However, such monitoring is rare because this is usually only used in the context of national security against terrorist activity.

More often, police engage with suspects in online activities. For example, a detective will pose as someone else and engage a suspect online. This is especially common in certain types of sex offense cases, particularly when a detective poses as an underage individual and sets up a liaison with a suspect who they believe is targeting underage individuals.

Authorities can monitor a person’s online activity if they have a warrant to do so. Absent a warrant, authorities cannot actually access a person’s private conversations and use them against them. Monitoring that is done by the National Security Agency (think the Edward Snowden information leaks) does not actually apply to the vast majority of cases.

The NSA does not monitor private conversations to look for an assault that occurred last week. The NSA is concerned with national security and not general crimes. Even in those cases, a government agency absolutely needs to have a court-approved warrant to be able to monitor any manner of communication.

Limiting Police Access to Information

It is possible to limit police access to information, but it is extremely difficult to do so. Legally, certain actions that interfere with an investigation could be considered obstruction of justice or witness tampering, and a person does not want to be accused of either.

The government is always on the lookout for a situation where a suspect or a defendant is trying to persuade a witness to either not speak with the government or change their story or statements to law enforcement. A person will certainly want to avoid any appearance that they are trying to obstruct justice or tamper with a witness.

With that said, the easiest way to limit the police from easily accessing certain information is by not speaking about the facts of a particular investigation or case in such a way that creates another witness. A person can proactively limit the information the government is able to get by not talking about the charge or facts surrounding it.

Also, a person may be able to quash or limit a subpoena if the government is over reaching in their attempts to get information for a subpoena.

In general, it is extremely difficult to prevent the government from actually conducting their investigation because they have wide-ranging fact-finding powers. Contact our office today with any questions you may have regarding obtaining information.