For the most part, the Internet is a vast place that features various categories of information. You could search for anything and the search engines would likely give you an answer for that.
That being said, while most searches won’t bring you any issues, some illegal searches can get you in trouble – especially if you are already on the watch list.
Can You Be Arrested for Searches?
You may not be arrested right away for the things that you look up online. However, you may be placed on a watch list. The more red flags you have, the higher your chances will be of getting thrown in jail.
The Internet searches can get you arrested, mainly if they believe you are related to a crime – or potentially want to commit one. Those with a criminal record may also end up with a cop at their doorstep. However, this depends on the state that you live in, as well as the severity of your search.
For example, if you live in Manassas, Virginia, and search for things such as how to escape charges for driving under the influence, the police may not access your Internet footprint without a mandate. In fact, a good Manassas DUI attorney could probably get you out of it quite easily. Still, other terms that we will talk about later may easily raise a red flag.
Google by itself does not report your Google searches to the police. Unless it picks up on a great offense and finds your activity suspicious, your searches will remain in the browser. However, curiosity put the cat in jail, so you may want to be careful about what you look for online.
Are Your Internet Searches Private?
While you may think that your Internet searches are private, they never really are private. Even if you go into incognito mode, while they may be private to those using your device, they aren’t hidden from the rest of the world.
If necessary, law enforcement can access your search history, regardless of the browser that you use. It doesn’t matter how much you try to hide it – you will still leave a footprint on the Internet. Multiple red flags and an officer that is quite determined might easily trace it back to you, should it prove necessary.
Illegal Terms and Phrases
Most online searches can be done without any issues with the police – but some may cause their “ears” to perk up and glance your way.
1. Child Pornography
In 2018, a total of 45% of people were sentenced for owning child pornography. Something as simple as a Google search on how much time can you get may get you in trouble with the police. A man from Fresno was arrested for that, actually, and his search history did not help him much in court.
Even writing “child pornography” with no context can get you arrested, especially if you have a record as an offender. If they also find that you viewed or downloaded the videos, then you may face jail time, as this is the term the police are typically most serious about.
2. Hiring an Assassin
The “dark web” is a rather scary place, and with the right Google searches, you can reach the online criminal underworld as well. Hiring an assassin is one of those areas. Needless to say, killing someone is illegal and can land you in jail – which means that hiring someone to do the kill for you is just as illegal.
This is why you need to be very cautious when you do such searches, even if you do it as a joke – although this is something that no one should really joke about. Your innocent search for a video game or a crime novel can also lead you to the dark web, which can put you in trouble.
Terrorism is a threat that constantly concerns the world, which is why cybersecurity experts are keeping an eye out for questionable explosive terms. Officials are so careful about this that even a simple click on “how bombs are made” can land you on the watch list as a potential terrorist.
You may have been looking for a pressure cooker and somehow stumbled on the article by accident (mixed with curiosity). However, you will not be spared the warning, because the search engine algorithm will still kick in.
In certain countries such as Spain or Switzerland, it is alright to download something via torrent, as long as it is for personal use. This is not the case for the United States. By viewing and sharing copyrighted materials through torrents, you are violating copyright laws. Searches for these torrents and downloading them may not only end in a fine but in jail time as well.
The Bottom Line
It may seem like a bother to put extra thought into your Internet searches. However, if you want to spare yourself the time explaining your intention behind the search, you may want to avoid the terms above.