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“Theftie” is the New “Selfie” – How You Can Incriminate Yourself if You Steal a Smartphone

Most of us have done it. With smartphone cameras’ ability to take forward-facing pictures, we’ve snapped one or two (or several) portrait shots of ourselves to see how we look. “Selfies” may be vain, but they don’t hurt anybody. But as a recent case in Florida demonstrates, it can hurt you if you stole the phone you were using to take the selfie.

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In Tampa, Fla., police are searching for a white male who stole a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone from a gas station while the victim was pumping gas. Luckily for the victim, the phone was password protected, which prevented the man from accessing the phone’s apps.

One of the apps, a security program called Lookout, automatically took two selfies after the suspect incorrectly entered the password too many times. The app was able to capture a clear photo of the suspect and sent the photos to the victim’s email address. The victim gave the photos to Tampa police, who have released the photos to try to find the man.

The Lookout app also sends a one-time GPS location. In the Tampa theft case, the GPS location tracker traced the phone to a nearby apartment complex, but neither the suspect nor the phone could be found. The Lookout app is similar to the “Find my iPhone” app for iPhones, iPads and other Mac devices, which continually traces a stolen Mac product’s location through GPS tracking.1

Can Evidence from a Smartphone Be Used in Criminal Theft Cases?

In the state of California, apps like Lookout and Find My iPhone can be used as evidence in theft cases.

In 2011, a Los Angeles woman was held at gunpoint and robbed of her purse, where she was storing her iPhone. The victim immediately went to the police, who used a computer to track the stolen iPhone through the Find My iPhone app.

After tracking the iPhone to a particular street, the police arrested a man who fit the suspect’s description. Officers dialed the woman’s cell phone number, which caused an iPhone in the suspect’s pocket to ring. The police eventually recovered the woman’s purse and the firearm used in the robbery. The suspect was arrested and charged with armed robbery.2

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or a loved one is facing theft charges, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience defending persons accused of theft crimes. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [App snaps photos of alleged smartphone thief, June 3, 2014, http://www.myfoxla.com/story/25681046/app-snaps-photos-of-alleged-smartphone-thief]
2. [‘Find My Phone’ iPhone app leads police to armed robbery suspect, November 22, 2011, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/apple-iphone-app-helps-lapd-catch-armed-robbery-suspect-.html]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.