2018 Joseph L. Giacalone

Carpenter v. The United States

Tody, The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the police must obtain a search warrant for suspect cell tower information. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the USSC upheld safeguards of the 4th Amendment for all citizens.

The original case emanated from Detroit. The FBI had tracked the suspect’s whereabouts in and around the areas of a series of robberies without obtaining a search warrant. Why? It wasn’t mandatory until now. I question why it wasn’t.

If you didn’t know already, your cellphone is like a road map of everywhere you’ve been. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you probably have never thought about it, until now that is. Think of every place that you go to in a day and imagine someone having access to it. Sounds creepy, right? Well we do it all day long and never give it a single thought. Take a moment and think what kind of personal information that you have on your phone right now. Name, date of birth, financial information, etc. We are increasingly giving up more peronmal information for the sake of convienence.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on search warrants for cellphones when a suspect is arrested. In Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie, the Supreme Court ruled that the police must obtain a warrant in order to search the phone. Now, they have extended the 4th Amendment to cellphone towers as well. A natural progression as technology changes at lighting speeds.

Carpenter v. The United States won’t stop law enforcement from obtaining the information without a warrant during exigent circumstances such as an abduction. It also won’t prevent them from ever obtaining location data. The decision doesn’t stop law enforcement it just slows them down a bit. Now, the police will have to go to court, articulate their probable cause to a judge and obtain a search warrant.

You can read the entire decision of the Supreme Court