Supreme Court Rules Government Can’t Track Your Location Through Your Cellphone Without a Warrant
Do you go anywhere without your cellphone? These days, your cellphone is your life. Many people could not imagine leaving their homes without their phone. But what if you knew that the government would be able to find out where you were at all times through your cellphone? Would you still bring your phone along with you if you knew not to expect privacy?
The Supreme Court recently tackled this issue and ruled that individuals have an expectation of privacy when it comes to the location data on their cellphones.
Supreme Court Rules Warrant Needed to Track Your Cellphone Location Data
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot track your location through your cellphone over an extended period of time.
The case stemmed from a series of armed robberies in Michigan and Ohio. In order to build its case against one of the suspects in the crimes, the government used the Stored Communications Act of 1986 to obtain the suspect’s cellphone records from a cellphone company. More than 127 days’ worth of location data obtained by the government placed the defendant at the crime scenes.
Defense lawyers for the defendant attempted to suppress the cellphone location data on the argument that the “reasonable grounds” standard for obtaining the information was too low. They claimed the Fourth Amendment requires a search warrant showing probable cause before the government can obtain this type of information. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court agreed with the defense lawyers, stating that just because individuals voluntary share their location with third parties (i.e. apps on your phone), it does not mean that they give up their right to privacy when it comes to the government obtaining their location data.
“Virtually any activity on the phone generates [location data], including incoming calls, texts, or e-mails and countless other data connections that a phone automatically makes when checking for news, weather, or social media updates,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion.
“Here the progress of science has afforded law enforcement a powerful new tool to carry out its important responsibilities … this tool risks Government encroachment of the sort the Framers after consulting the lessons of history, drafted the Fourth Amendment to prevent.”
What This Court Ruling Means for You
The ruling is considered a major victory for Americans’ privacy rights. Previously, the assumption was that individuals had no expectation of privacy for any information shared with third parties, including bank records, your purchase history, Yelp check-ins and any other data you may have on your smartphone.
According to CNN, law enforcement made 125,000 requests for cellphone data from Verizon and AT&T in 2016 alone. Courts granted many of these requests citing the Stored Communications Act.
Due to this ruling, law enforcement officials and prosecutors will now have to show probable cause in order to obtain a warrant for this type of information.
Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
This ruling would not have been made if it weren’t for the dedication of the criminal defense lawyers who challenged the lower court’s ruling. If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime, you need a criminal lawyer who will do everything legally possible to defend you. That is why you should contact Wallin & Klarich.
Our skilled and knowledgeable lawyers have more than 40 years of experience successfully defending individuals accused of crimes. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, our criminal defense attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Contact our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation regarding your case. We will be there when you call.