The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 26, 2012

Law enforcement reacts to technology

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Constant changes in technology and communication devices create ongoing challenges — and new opportunities — for law enforcement and prosecutors.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said the use of cell phones, mobile computers and a variety of social media venues means law enforcement must stay on its toes.

“All of these things cut both ways,” Sartini said.

“Investigations can be damaged by irresponsible social messaging,” Sartini said. He said they are also an indispensable way of gaining valuable evidence.

“We have the ability to track these down. You can’t hide behind a tweet, a Facebook post or an e-mail message,” Sartini said. He said the telephone and social media companies are generally cooperative.

Sartini said a # or court order from a judge is usually necessary to obtain telephone records or other evidence that may be needed.

“Where is your expectation of privacy when you put something out on Facebook with 500 friends?” Sartini asked. He said many of the issues will be determined by higher court rulings.

“The defense bar challenges everything and that is fine because the Supreme Court or the Ohio Supreme Court rules and we have a definite ruling,” he said.

Several high-profile local murder cases were solved with the help of Facebook posts that appeared quickly after the crimes, Sartini said.