See our work on Cell Tower Triangulation evidence that could have proven Charlie White’s innocence.

Cell Tower Triangulation

Cell tower triangulation is similar to GPS tracking in many ways. Multiple towers are used to track the phone’s location by measuring the time delay that a signal takes to return back to the towers from the phone. This delay is then calculated into distance and gives a fairly accurate location of the phone.  Detecting which antenna of the tower the signal bounced off of can further refine the location. This gives a more specific location when used congruently with multiple towers calculated by multiple dishes on each tower. Cell phone companies do this for a variety of reasons including enhancing the ability of the E911 system. This system was put in place for 911 operators to get a location of where a call from a cell phone is made from so that if communication is lost, the operator would know where to dispatch help. Cell tower triangulation is also used to provide the phone with the best service by noting which tower it is closest to and using them to provide service. Cell tower triangulation provides the ability to track the historic location of the cell phone’s presence. It will then identify where the cell phone was when receiving/making calls, texting, emailing, etc.

The cell tower triangulation data can be used forensically in many ways to achieve many objectives, i.e. intelligence, criminal location verifications, alibi confirmation, etc. As technology is ever evolving, so are the phone carriers and the various cellphone markets throughout the country. Only in exigent circumstance, or with the assistance of state/federal law enforcement can cellphones be GPS, or “pinged” with accuracy.  This is considered a “live intercept”, which can be as accurate as 2-6 meters on a device. If any cell phone communication is intercepted in real time, a “live intercept”, this ability is which is outlined and defined as a Title All in Investigations intercept under state/federal law, which again takes a court order from a state/federal judge. Historical information, is just that, in the “past”, but it can still yield valuable information with regards to location of a cellphone, the actual cell phone tower and even the what side of the tower. Historical call details, are not just incoming/outgoing phone calls, they consist of the originating cell site and the terminating cell site, which in essence is where the call began and where it as ended. These cell sites are the actual cellular tower location, which typically consist of three antennas. Depending on the azimuth of each antenna, it will depend on the layout in degrees of each antenna, as various companies have different layouts and even various layouts depending on the topographic area of the location of the cell tower. These details, along with the certain details of the cell tower triangulation investigation, can be of the utmost importance in explaining the events in question. For example, these details can show a route of travel to and from a location. The frequency of when the “target phone” is in a certain area, the time of day, where the last call made on a certain day and the first call the immediate morning could be a logical conclusion of where a person slept that night. Lastly, in the events of homicides, or missing persons and any suspect(s) in these investigations, the phone may be powered down for a certain time period. These “voids” of irregular activity, should cast doubt in why the phone suddenly was powered off.

Legal Process

All in Investigations have investigators who are qualified experts in this area, who have utilized hundreds of various court orders, preservation letters and the applied expert knowledge of being able to get the time sensitive facts needed for the investigation. Cell phone companies and various social media online groups can provide historical information, but this information is not held for an indefinite amount of time.  It is imperative to retrieve the information before it is lost.  Typically, the rule of thumb for law enforcement is a “90 day window”.  After this time has elapsed, then the ability to retrieve the details diminishes quite rapidly.  

We have the legal language and the necessary forms to assist law firms with obtaining the information and most importantly, interpreting the cell tower triangulation analysis and information.