New Bill Restricts Use of Cell Site Simulators by Law Enforcement

Naperville criminal defense attorneys, cell site simulatorsRecently, the Chicago Police Department has come under fire for its use of cell site simulators in criminal investigations. In response to concerns that the devices violate citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights, the state legislature introduced a bill that would address many of these concerns.

Cellular Tracking Equipment

Cell site simulators are electronic devices that allow users to determine a phone’s location by mimicking cell phone towers. The devices also make it possible for users, primarily law enforcement officials, to intercept phone calls and text messages from the target’s phone. However, once deployed, it is difficult to restrict the devices from intercepting data not only from the target phone, but from any cellular phones in the area.

Currently, police officers are not required to obtain search warrants in order to use cell site simulators. Instead, most law enforcement officials submit the same applications as those used for pen registers, which are decades-old electronic devices that record all numbers dialed from a particular phone line.

The use of pen registers and similar devices are granted under the very low standard that the information obtained be relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. While the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have recently issued directives stating that law enforcement officers must obtain a separate warrant to use cell site simulators, only a few states have made a failure to do so unlawful.

House Bill 4470

If passed, House Bill 4470 would clarify when cell site simulators can be used. For example, according to the new bill, cell site simulators would only be permitted to be used to locate, track the location of, or identify a device used for communications. Furthermore, a court order would be required to justify the use of such devices.

An application for a court order to use such a device would be required to include:

  • A description of the device’s capabilities, as well as the manner and method in which it will be utilized, including whether the device will obtain information from devices that are not considered the target; and
  • A description of the methods to be utilized in order to protect the privacy of non-target devices.

In the event that a law enforcement agency uses a cell site simulator device to illegally gather information, the data would be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial proceeding.

If you have been arrested for or charged with a criminal offense, and law enforcement officials illegally obtained evidence against you, you need experienced legal representation to help you defend your rights. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free consultation.