The Amazon Echo and Google Home are devices that use your voice to allow you to access your music, the daily news, weather and controls to other connected devices within your home.
These devices are always listening to you, even when you are not commanding it to take an action. So, what happens when a crime is committed within your home? Does that mean your device is now a witness that can be called to testify in court?
Did the Amazon Echo Witness a Murder?
An Amazon Echo device is playing a starring role in a high profile murder case. James Bates is accused of murdering Victor Collins, who was found dead in the hot tub at Bates’ home after a night of drinking. Bates pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
According to Bates, after a night of watching football and heavy drinking, Collins and Bates decided to get into his hot tub. Bates claims he went to bed late and left Collins in the tub, where he was found floating face-down the next morning. Collins was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.32% at the time of his death.
Lacking physical evidence, the prosecution sought the data on Bates’ Amazon Echo. According to Amazon, the Echo does not “record” sounds. Rather, it listens for command words such as “Alexa” or “Amazon,” then records the user’s voice and processes the request. Recordings are stored remotely and can be reviewed or deleted.
Prosecutors believe this data may give clues as to whether Bates murdered Collins, and obtained a warrant for the data. Amazon fought the release of the data citing privacy concerns, but the defendant and his lawyer eventually gave permission to hand it over.
Alexa, Can You Testify in Court?
Since the defendant agreed to hand over the data to authorities, there was no ruling on whether Amazon had to release the data. This means there is still no precedent for whether companies like Amazon have to release data from personal assistant devices.
It is safe to assume that these devices will be the subject of search warrants in future criminal cases. Like Amazon, the device manufacturers may decide to fight against the release of data from their consumers’ use of their products. While the companies’ involvement could work as an extra layer of defense for a person accused of a crime, it is likely that the same rules that govern search warrants of computers and mobile phones will eventually be applied to these devices.
So the lesson to be learned is: your device is always listening. Be careful what you say.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich For Help
If you have been accused of a crime, you will need an experienced criminal defense to help protect your rights. Police officers and investigators may try to obtain evidence against you in an illegal manner, and your skilled criminal defense attorney can help you make sure that illegally obtained evidence is not used against you in court.
That is why you should call our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Our lawyers have over 35 years of experience successfully defending people in criminal cases. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.