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Warrant Needed to Collect Cellphone DATA- SCOTUS

Posted on July 9, 2018 by Bruce A. Thomas, Esq.

Timothy Carpenter just wanted to go out and rob stores in peace.  He never thought that his cellphone would be his downfall and lead to a 116 year prison sentence for his criminal behavior.  In his case the state obtained 127 days of data from his provider and used that data to track his movements during the times the robberies were committed.  But they didn’t get a search warrant . . .

Well, the Supreme Court didn’t like it either and , in Carpenter v. U.S., No. 16-402, overturned his conviction because it was based on cellphone records obtained from Mr. Carpenter’s provider without obtaining a search warrant first.  This use of cellphone records by law enforcement occurs all over the country and regularly in the Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and the rest of the Lehigh Valley.

Because cellphone data retained by providers(third parties) has so much personal information about the subscriber the court held that obtaining data, including location information, implicates  the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and  applies to collection of this data.  A good criminal lawyer can help you sort these issues out if cell phone data is used in your case.

  So if the state uses your cellphone records to prosecute you take a good look to see if, for those records, they obtained a search warrant.

The takeaway from this one is that we still have some privacy rights here in Pennyslvania and the rest of the country.