Question from Mike, How Do Police Handle Anonymous Tips and Online Searches?
Answer from AI:
When law enforcement receives an anonymous tip about a potential crime, they have a duty to investigate the information to determine its credibility and whether any laws have been or will be violated. The steps taken by law enforcement can vary depending on the specifics of the tip and the potential threat it describes.
Initial Investigation Steps
Upon receiving a tip about a possible bombing, law enforcement would likely:
- Assess the credibility of the tip.
- Look for corroborating evidence that could substantiate the threat.
- Conduct interviews or surveillance as deemed appropriate.
If the initial investigation finds no evidence to support the claims made in the tip, law enforcement must decide how to proceed. The lack of evidence might suggest that the tip is not credible. However, given the severity of the alleged crime, law enforcement may still consider further investigation.
Emergency Disclosure Requests
An emergency disclosure request is a tool that law enforcement can use to obtain information from service providers like Google without a warrant, but only under certain conditions. According to U.S. law, specifically the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), service providers may disclose information without user consent if there is an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.
Before submitting an emergency disclosure request, law enforcement would typically need to establish:
- The existence of an imminent threat.
- A reasonable belief that the information requested is necessary to avert the threat.
Deciding to Submit an Emergency Disclosure Request
In the scenario described, if law enforcement finds no evidence after a preliminary investigation, they would have to weigh the credibility of the tip against the legal requirements for an emergency disclosure request. If they believe the tip still indicates a serious imminent threat, they may proceed with the request to access the individual’s Google search history.
Privacy Considerations and Legal Standards
Privacy laws protect individuals from undue searches and seizures, as outlined in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Law enforcement must balance these privacy rights with public safety concerns. An emergency disclosure request must meet the legal standards set forth by the ECPA and be justifiable under the circumstances.
Consulting Legal Professionals
Decisions about whether to close a case or to take further action, such as submitting an emergency disclosure request, can be complex and are often made on a case-by-case basis. Law enforcement agencies may consult with legal professionals or a district attorney to ensure that their actions comply with the law.
In conclusion, whether law enforcement decides to close the case or submit an emergency disclosure request depends on their assessment of the threat’s credibility and the legal standards for such requests. If you are involved in a situation like this or need legal advice, it is important to consult with a legal professional who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your case.