Court: No Warrant Needed For Police to Snag Cell Location Data
May 6, 2015, 8:01 AM by Eric M. Zeman
A federal court ruled police can obtain cell phone location records from carriers without first getting a warrant. A Florida man, Quartavious Davis, convicted of seven armed robberies in 2010 argued the cell phone records used to place him in the vicinity of the robberies were protected under the Fourth Amendment. A Florida court initially agreed with Davis' argument, but the Justice Department appealed that ruling and heard the case earlier this year. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Florida ruling and said Davis' rights against unreasonable search and seizure were not violated. "Davis has no subjective or objective reasonable expectation of privacy in MetroPCS's business records showing the cell tower locations that wirelessly connected his calls at or near the time of six of the seven robberies," said the federal judges. They maintain the records were created by MetroPCS and belong to that company rather than Davis. The ruling applies to law enforcement activity in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, which fall under the purview of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court. "The reach of the majority opinion is breathtaking," said Davis' attorney. "It means that the government can get anything stored by a third party: your Facebook posts, your Amazon purchases, your internet search history, even the documents and pictures you store in the cloud, all without a warrant." Though law enforcement agencies in these three states can obtain cell records from carriers without a warrant, they cannot search individual cell phones without a warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that police must obtain a warrant before searching actual handsets.
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