Sunday, June 15, 2014

Federal Appeals Court: Police Need a Warrant To Track Cellphones

Police need a warrant to track the cellphones of criminal suspects, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in a development that could help resolve a privacy issue that has split judges nationwide. 
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta held that the government violated the privacy rights of Quartavius Davis, who was convicted of robbing seven stores in 2010—including a Little Caesar's restaurant, a Walgreens drugstore and a jewelry shop—and sentenced to roughly 162 years in prison.
At trial, prosecutors presented cellphone records that placed Mr. Davis and his cohorts near the scene of the robberies. The evidence included records of the cell towers to which their phones were connected when they placed and received calls, according to court documents.
To obtain a court order for the records, prosecutors needed to show only that the records were relevant and material to an ongoing investigation. But after Wednesday's ruling, prosecutors in the 11th Circuit, which encompasses Alabama, Florida and Georgia, will have to meet a higher standard: probable cause, or a reasonable belief that a person committed a crime. 
"Cell site location information is within the subscriber's reasonable expectation of privacy," wrote Judge David B. Sentelle for a unanimous three-judge panel. "The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation."
Though the court held that Mr. Davis's rights were violated, his convictions will stand, as will most of his punishment, which sentencing-overhaul advocates have criticized as overly harsh. The 11th Circuit said police acted in good faith when they sought a court order instead of a warrant because they were following a federal law.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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