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Apple’s Find My app leads police to arrest suspect after searching for lost iPhone

Credit: 9to5Mac

The Find My app on Apple’s iPhone and iPad is one of the most useful features since it allows users to follow their devices even when they are not connected to the internet. However, once a deputy “accidentally” placed his phone on the suspect’s truck, the app assisted Colorado police in locating and apprehending him.

Deputy Travis Peck was preparing to arrest Steven Sandoval, who was wanted for evasion after failing to appear in court, according to Denver NBC affiliate 9News (via Gizmodo). Sandoval, on the other hand, was able to elude the cops with his truck by driving past a security fence.

While this may have been for a challenging chase, Apple’s Find My app made things much easier. While approaching Sandoval, Deputy Peck suddenly realised he had misplaced his iPhone, so he set it on the truck bed rail to get his handcuffs before the suspect ran.

“A short time later,” it reads, “the deputy realized his cellphone was missing. Considering it is county property, the deputy felt it was important to locate the phone as quickly as possible. He used his personal cellphone to call another deputy to have him find it using the ‘Find My iPhone’ app.”

After roughly an hour of tracking, the police were able to apprehend Sandoval. The incident had a good conclusion for the cops, but it raised questions about the Fourth Amendment’s protections against improper searches. That’s because police can’t track people using GPS, but Deputy Peck insists that his phone falling into the suspect’s truck was an accident.

Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an email that if the phone was indeed left by accident, the coincidence may shield the deputies from a Fourth Amendment challenge. “If the facts are as stated, I doubt there was a constitutional violation,” Kerr wrote. “First, if we accept as true that the phone was accidentally dropped in the car, the dropping wouldn’t be a Fourth Amendment search because there was no intent to obtain information, which was required by the Jones case.” 

Apple will allow users to track their iOS devices even when they are switched off later this year. This functionality will be included in iOS 15, which will be available to all users this fall. However, this function will not be available on all iPhone and iPad models.

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