In recent legal news, the United States Supreme Court is deciding on whether or not police must obtain a warrant if they want to get information about a suspect’s previous location through information provided by their cell phone providers.
Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, are arguing that searching the location of a suspect based on cell phone tower information without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant. The lawyers are representing a man called Timothy Carpenter.
This case has major legal implications. After all, law enforcement agencies have been requesting location information from cell phone providers for a long time and have always been receiving the information that they have requested. They have been using this information to discover the locations of suspects. They do not usually have a warrant while requesting this information.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile receive tens of thousands of such requests from law enforcement every year. Verizon is the only one who told the court that they prefer more privacy protection for their users.
The advent of technology raises new questions when it comes to privacy and law enforcement. New cases have come up. Two such cases were regarding whether law enforcement can place a GPS tracking device on a suspect without a warrant and whether law enforcement can search cell phones without a warrant. In both cases, the Supreme Court ruled that they did need a warrant in to do those things.
The Supreme Court will decide on Timothy Carpenter’s case after the 6th United States Court of Appeals ruled that police did not need a warrant, based on a 1986 ruling. The judges will decide whether police need probable cause, and therefore a warrant, or whether they just need reasonable grounds to receive customer information.