Using IP Addresses to Fight Crime

Dennis F. Dwyer is a top Chicago criminal lawyer committed to protecting the rights of his clients.  His extensive experience with Criminal law allows him to provide his clients with the best criminal defense.

Any computer or other device that accesses the internet is assigned an IP address, which stands for Internet Protocol address. Some internet service providers (ISP) use static IP addresses that stay the same every time you connect your device to the internet, and some use dynamic IP addresses that change each time you connect to the internet. Websites that you visit will record your IP address and the time of the visit. Likewise, your internet service provider keeps a record of your internet activity. Even with a dynamic IP address, the ISP will have a record of which IP addresses were assigned to you. The recording of IP addresses has raised concern over privacy as well as hope for identifying criminals.

IP Address Not an Identifying Feature

Judges have repeatedly ruled that an IP address cannot be used to identify a criminal. An IP address is not considered in the same league as fingerprints or social security numbers. Some have likened an IP addresses to zip codes rather than personal identifiers. IP addresses link to computers or devices that can be used by any number of people. Additionally, multiple people linking through a hot spot can share an IP address.

Court Rulings

Many attorneys have tried to come to court with a list of IP addresses and attempt to convict people of crimes or wrongdoing. Judge Ungaro dismissed a lawsuit in March 2014 by Malibu Media saying that IP addresses cannot identify the individual. Judge Gary Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York made a similar ruling in 2012. Essentially an IP address alone cannot be used to convict an individual in court.

IP Addresses as Clues

Though IP addresses alone cannot identify and convict a criminal, law enforcement can use them successfully as clues for locating and building a case against criminals. Alone, they are not enough evidence, but they can lead to the discovery of evidence and be used in conjunction with other evidence. Law enforcement has successfully used social media websites, Craigslist and other internet venues to track down and stop criminal activity. An IP address is just one clue that can be used to track and identify crimes.

Accused of a Crime by an IP Address

Remember that an IP address alone is not sufficient evidence of a crime. An attorney or law enforcement agent may try to get you to admit guilt by saying they have evidence that your IP address proves your guilt. While this is simply not true, your lack of knowledge can be used against you. If you are accused of a crime, make sure to contact a knowledgeable and trustworthy criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Exercise your right to remain silent, ask to speak with your attorney, and wait for your attorney to provide reliable guidance for your situation.

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