Can The Police Track Your Phone in Victoria?

Can The Police Track Your Phone in Victoria?Smartphones make it easier than ever to track people. For some, the ease of tracking can make them uneasy about whether they are being tracked at all times. You generally do not have to worry about the police in Victoria tracking your phone in most circumstances. However, the police can track your phone in Victoria if they have a valid warrant or if there is an emergency.

If you feel that your privacy rights have been violated, and you think the police have obtained a warrant against you unjustly, it’s recommended that you consult with a criminal lawyer to learn about your options.

Warrants & Phone Tracking

In most situations, the police must obtain a warrant before they can start tracking your phone. A warrant is a court order that provides the police with the authority to do a search or bring in a suspect. A warrant must also be used to conduct certain types of surveillance, including tracking a phone.

Under What Circumstances Can Police Obtain A Warrant To Track Your Phone?

The police must show a judge that they believe there is “probable cause” that the phone contains evidence of a crime to obtain a warrant. The probable cause requirement must be more than a “feeling” or “hunch.” There must be some demonstratable indication that evidence will likely be found on the phone. The most common type of warrant used is a warrant to enter your home but occasionally police may ask for a warrant to track someone's phone.

For example, if someone is strongly suspected of drug trafficking and there’s already some strong evidence to indicate that the person is dealing in commercial quantities of drugs then the police may use that evidence to obtain a warrant to collect more evidence.

Laws in Victoria prohibit the installation of a tracking device on a phone, car, or any other location without their express or implied consent. Engaging in such acts as an individual can lead to a criminal record, severe fines and even potential jail time. However, as long as the police obtain a warrant, they can engage in this type of tracking without notifying you or obtaining your consent.

FAQs Regarding Police Phone Tracking

Can Police Track Your Phone Without a Warrant?

The right to privacy in your phone is protected by laws in Victoria and Federal law. For instance, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 both deal with protecting the privacy of Australians by prohibiting telecommunications service providers from disclosing information about communication usage.

Both of these acts specifically require that a legal agency obtain a warrant before they start tracking or intercepting communications. However, there are certain exceptions, such as in the case of an emergency. For instance, emergency dispatch personnel can “ping” your cell phone when you call so they can get a better idea of your location to aid in an emergency situation.

Can the Police Track Your Phone Calls?

Police can track your phone calls if they have a valid warrant to track that information. They can also obtain historical information about calls from your phone carrier with an appropriate warrant as well.

Can the Police Track Your Phone Messages?

Police can track phone messages if they have a valid warrant. They can see the messages through a phone network or by physically monitoring the device. Some messaging apps also store information on their services, and police can access this information if they have a valid warrant to obtain it.

Can the Police Track Your Phone If You Are Missing?

Police can track your phone if there is a serious or imminent threat to a missing person’s life and health. For example, if a friend or family member reports them as missing for several days and they’re starting to suspect something serious might have happened to them. If a situation like this occurs, then police can use pinging or GPS to estimate the location of their mobile phone.

Phone Tracking Methods

Phone tracking is not as glamorous or effective as movies and TV shows might lead you to believe. Instead, phone tracking is often inaccurate and provides just a glimpse or estimate of the precise location of an individual or their smartphone. Below are just a few methods that police might use to track your phone once they have obtained a warrant.

·         Ping Tracking

Pinging involves sending a signal from your phone to a cell phone tower. That information can then be analyzed to determine your approximate location.

·         Advanced Mobile Location (AML)

AML technology provides the latitude and longitude coordinates of a mobile phone if you use it to make a call. It is commonly used for calls to emergency dispatch. Many people do not realize that Apple and Android devices already have this technology built in.

·         GPS Tracking

Police have access to GPS tracking to help pinpoint locations. However, they may need to install a tracking device first. They might also be able to access your phone’s GPS tracking information in other ways as well.

·         Location Tracking Apps

Many apps will track your location—either automatically or because you have given them permission. Google tracks your location to assist with maps and directions. It also provides local recommendations for food, shopping, and experiences. Facebook and Snapchat can also track locations. In fact, many times, they will automatically post locations when you share or post.

Conclusion

Police must have a warrant to track your phone unless there is an emergency situation. The police can use whatever method will be most effective to gather information.

If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you might have legal options when it comes to any criminal charges. Consult with a criminal defence lawyer to learn about your options.

Resources and Further Reading

  1.     https://www.police.vic.gov.au/mobile-device-security
  2.     https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/news-and-media-releases/articles/deakin-expert-police-given-golden-ticket-to-search-mobile-phones
  3.     https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6623
  4.     https://www.ag.gov.au/crime/telecommunications-interception-and-surveillance
  5.     https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/in-force/acts/surveillance-devices-act-1999/042
  6.     https://www.acma.gov.au/emergency-calls
June Duncan

June Duncan

June has been writing about legal matters for law firms for over a decade. She is a licensed lawyer and currently practices law full-time. She writes in her spare time because she enjoys helping others decode the complexities of legal jargon so they can understand and assert their legal rights.

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