Cell Phone Evidence Video

WNWO: BOWLING GREEN — Law enforcement is using digital technology to retrieve information on cell phones, and NBC 24 investigated what rights you have in protecting your data.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Office has used forensic analysis technology since 2008 to retrieve content from seized cell phones. Detectives use a Cellebrite hardware unit and accompanying software to extract information such as text messages, call logs, visited websites, photos and other data to assist with investigations in a myriad of criminal cases.

“We use it in our narcotics cases, any criminal offense we can use it, traffic accidents,” said Lt. Terry James of the Wood Co. Sheriff’s Office.

James says he regularly downloads content from phones on a weekly basis. The information can be found on almost any cell phone, even if it has been previously deleted.

If the content on a phone is the target of investigation, it can be seized with suspicion of probable cause. However, law enforcement will also need consent from the device’s owner or a warrant from a judge to extract and analyze the data. Deputies say any criminal content they come across on the device can be used as evidence. However, the technology also has the power to prove one’s innocence.

“We’ve used it on several accidents to be able to tell or not tell if they were texting and driving,” said James. He continued, “We had one in particular where they thought they were texting and driving and they weren’t.”

The Wood Co. Sheriff’s Office says it will continue to use the technology as it evolves, and harness the power of smart phones to outsmart criminals.