When Will Police Track an IP Address to Solve a Cyber Crime?

Written By: Moermond & Mulligan, LLC

Last Updated: 03-07-2024

Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2024 at 9:00 am    

When Will Police Track an IP Address to Solve a Cyber Crime

Technology has moved from science fiction stories into reality and is a significant part of everyday life for most Americans today. While technology and the internet have helped bring people closer together, they can also be used to exploit unsuspecting individuals. Increasingly, law enforcement attempts to catch up with technological advances and turn the tables on people who may use computers and technology to prey on vulnerable populations. One tool the authorities are increasingly turning to for help when identifying and intervening in cybercrimes involves tracing an IP address.

When will police track an IP address to solve a cybercrime? The answer, much like technology, is complicated. At Moermond & Mulligan, LLC, our Cincinnati criminal defense team wants to help you understand when and how law enforcement uses technology to track down those engaging in potentially illegal activities.

Can Police Trace an IP Address to Solve Crimes?

First, it helps to understand the technology that allows law enforcement to investigate cybercrime and how individuals may use that technology to supposedly target others. “IP address” stands for Internet Protocol address. It is a unique numerical identification tool that gets assigned to every device connected to a network that uses Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address identifies the network interface and provides the location of the device in the network.

When a person connects to the internet, the device they use to connect gets assigned an IP address. This is the device’s online identifier. Like a physical home address, it lets other devices and servers know where to deliver data. When you communicate online or browse websites, your unique IP address is captured by the entities you interact with.

Using an IP address to track and solve cybercrimes is a complicated process that requires cooperation between several entities. Law enforcement typically cannot track an IP address unless they have reasonable suspicion or evidence of criminal activity. Authorities generally present this evidence to the court to obtain a warrant that allows them to request IP address information from internet service providers (ISPs). The ISP must then provide the necessary information to law enforcement. Data from an ISP may show the date, time, and location of internet connections, websites viewed, and online services accessed.

Using IP data to track potentially criminal activity can also be challenging because not all addresses are static; they can change over time. Tracking an IP address does not always yield exact location results or a specific individual.

The long and short of it is that, yes, law enforcement can track IP addresses to help them solve cybercrimes. However, it generally takes more than IP data to prove criminal activity. 

Common Cybercrimes

Law enforcement may track an IP address to help them solve a variety of cybercrimes. What are the most common cybercrimes? Some of them include:

  • Data breach
  • Identity theft
  • Cyberbullying and harassment
  • Cyberstalking
  • Online solicitation
  • Child pornography
  • Hacking
  • Cyberterrorism

Can an IP address be used as evidence in cases such as these? While an IP address alone is not enough to convict an individual of a significant crime, it can lead to the discovery of potentially incriminating evidence and other information law enforcement can use to help prosecutors build a case.

How Long Does It Take for Police to Get an IP Address?

When Will Police Track an IP Address to Solve a Cyber Crime

Technology moves fast. The legal process takes time. Law enforcement cannot automatically gain access to IP address information. A legal process is in place to ensure that law enforcement is moving forward with an investigation properly. First, law enforcement needs a valid reason to seek IP address information, which means reasonable suspicion or evidence that a crime is being committed. Next, they need to obtain a warrant from a judge or magistrate by demonstrating that tracking an IP address is necessary for their investigation.

Once law enforcement obtains a warrant, they must serve the ISP with it, compelling them to cooperate with their investigation and turn over the required IP address information. The entire process can be complicated and time-consuming, lasting weeks or months. Law enforcement does not immediately gain access to IP address information or tracking data. It takes time.

Are You Facing Cybercrime Charges? You Need an Experienced Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you suddenly facing cybercrime charges? Take advantage of your Fifth Amendment rights, and do not talk to law enforcement. Talk to an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer first. At Moermond & Mulligan, LLC, we can thoroughly review your case and immediately start protecting your legal rights. You deserve effective and responsive legal representation. Let us manage your situation and seek the most favorable outcome possible for your case.

Call our Cincinnati office today at (513) 421-9790 for help.