SCOTUS to decide whether a warrant is needed to obtain location data from cellphone carriers

On June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to review the decision by the Sixth Circuit holding that the protection granted under the Fourth Amendment did not prevent the government to access business records from the defendants’ wireless carriers revealing the user’s location without obtaining a warrant.

In Carpenter v. United States Timothy Carpenter and Timothy Sanders were convicted of nine armed robberies. The government’s evidence at trial included business records from the defendants’ wireless carriers, showing that each man used his cellphone in the vicinity of several robberies during the times robberies occurred. Defendant argued that government’s collection of those records constituted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected the Forth Amendment argument and affirmed the district Court judgement holding that defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in cell phone business records dealing with routing information rather than the content of the related communications.

The Supreme Court will have to decide whether police need to obtain a search warrant to obtain past location data from a suspect’s cellphone. The decision will be important to determine if the collection of the records is a Fourth Amendment search and – if it is a search – if it is a search that requires a warrant.


More information on Carpenter v. United States is available at…


For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal



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