A person generally has an expectation of privacy in a wireless carrier’s cell-site location information revealing the person’s physical movements
In Carpenter v. United States
In Carpenter v. United States, the defendant was charged with a series of robberies involving numerous people in Michigan and Ohio. The federal government obtained court orders directing wireless carriers to disclose cell site location information (CSLI). The United States Attorney’s office based the request on the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The SCA requires “reasonable grounds” to believe the records are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” This burden is less restrictive than the “probable cause” requirement of the 4th Amendment. The government obtained 127 days of data from MetroPCS and two days of data from Sprint.
The records revealed that every time a cell phone taps into the wireless network, the wireless carrier logs a time-stamped record of the cell site location. From this information, the government was able to establish the defendant’s location near the robberies when they occurred.
Carpenter was federally charged with and convicted of six counts of robbery and firearms offenses. Carpenter filed a motion to suppress the CSLI provided by the wireless carriers on the grounds that obtaining the data without a warrant supported by probable cause violated the Fourth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court reversed the convictions and held that individuals have an “expectation of privacy in the record of [their] physical movements as captured through CSLI.” The Court explained that “the time-stamped data provides an intimate window into a person’s life, revealing not only his particular movements, but through them his ‘familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.’” The Court considered government access to CSLI an intrusion into privacies of life that “is remarkably easy, cheap, and efficient compared to traditional investigative tools.” The Court concluded that seven days of access to CSLI data is enough to be a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that the Fourth Amendment was violated in this case because the government failed to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause.
Issues that will inevitably be addressed in future federal and state court decisions will involve whether “real-time CSLI” or “tower dumps,” i.e., “a download of information on all the devices that connected to a particular cell site during a particular interval,” would be a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.
Motion to Suppress Illegally Seized Evidence
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will carefully examine the evidence in state and federal cases to determine if a client’s 4th Amendment Right against unreasonable searches and seizures has been violated. If a viable argument can be made, the lawyer will file a Motion to Suppress Illegally Seized Evidence and an evidentiary hearing will be conducted by the court. If the court rules that the search violated the constitution, the evidence will be suppressed and can no longer be used against the defendant. These rulings frequently, but not always, result in dismissal of the charges.
The Very Experienced Criminal Defense Team
If you have a question about whether your constitutional rights have been violated or want a very experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you with your felony or misdemeanor charges, please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will promptly contact you. We will find a way to help you even when no one else can.
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