Should Federal agents be allowed to access a phone caller’s location without a warrant?
A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court recently said yes with their latest ruling on the topic of protecting the privacy of data which is transmitted by one’s personal device.
The records in question, obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were that of two men located near multiple robberies when they occurred.
Timothy Carpenter and Timothy Sanders were found guilty of being involved in nine armed robberies but argued that their phone records should have been dismissed as evidence.
Why did they argue this?
- The phone records were obtained without a search warrant.
- The Fourth Amendment should have protected the FBI’s access to their phone records.
Unfortunately, the court ruled against them.
In a 2-1 panel, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision stated that collecting this information did not require a search warrant and was not categorized as a “search”.
Judge Raymond Kethledge wrote, “Cell-site data—like mailing addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses—are information that facilitate personal communications, rather than part of the content of those communications themselves.”
Carpenter’s lawyer continues to focuses on the next step. In these situations, it’s crucial to secure a criminal defense lawyer who is willing to fight till the end and be the client’s voice in the courtroom.
Carpenter’s lawyer will either ask the Sixth Court to rehear the case or head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What’s the Supreme Court’s record when it comes to privacy?
Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of privacy. However, Judge Kethledge wrote that his decision was based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith V. Maryland. The Smith V. Maryland ruling stated that when a person dials a number on their landline, they are willingly releasing that information to phone companies and therefore, it’s not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
While landlines and cellphones are different, Judge Kethledge saw this as a solid reference for his decision.
This controversy will continue to be disputed as similar cases appear and questions continue to be asked.
Is this fair? Should the FBI be able to access this information? If police have access to this type of data, especially this much, shouldn’t they have to have a search warrant?
In this case, police had extensive amounts of information. They had months of data from more than 1,000 different locations. Carpenter was sentenced to more than 116 years in prison and Sanders was sentenced to approximately 14 years in prison.
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