Legal Technology News

Supreme Court Agrees to Take On Cell Phone Privacy Issues
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)


Summary: The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments from a case regarding cell phone privacy and law enforcement issues.

With a number of cases being introduced to courts at all levels on cell phone privacy, the Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on the issue. Their announcement came Monday regarding an appeal case arguing that obtaining such information without a warrant is equal to an unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.


The case focuses on whether authorities should be required to get a warrant for cell tower data in order to track and reenact the location and movement of cell phone users for extended periods of time. Carpenter v. United States was filed after a Detroit robbery in 2011 where investigators used phone location records to gather evidence for the case. Timothy Carpenter was convicted of a number of armed robberies in Michigan and Ohio. Police used his cell phone records to place him near the scene of robberies at T-Mobile and Radio Shack stores.

Generally, courts have ruled that there is reduced privacy interest for these kinds of issues since phone companies already have the information. CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck argues that there are greater issues in regards to privacy. He said, “We all share tons of data with third parties on a daily basis, from our cell phone carriers to our credit card companies to our financial institutions and so on.” Vladeck added, “For decades, the Supreme Court has held that, once we voluntarily share that information with these firms, the government will usually not need a warrant for that data, no matter how personal or private it may be. In this case, it looks like the justices are interested in revisiting that reasoning – perhaps with an eye toward how technological advancements have dramatically changed the privacy calculus.”

Police have relied on cell phone records to track suspects in criminal investigations. However, many have been starting to question the method of obtaining digital information as a violation of privacy. The primary wireless carriers – Verizon Communications Inc, T-Mobile US Inc, Sprint Corp, and AT&T Inc – receive tens of thousands of requests each year for “cell site location information” or CSLI from law enforcement. Generally, they hand over the requested information.

Get JD Journal in Your Mail

Subscribe to our FREE daily news alerts and get the latest updates on the most happening events in the legal, business, and celebrity world. You also get your daily dose of humor and entertainment!!

American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who is co-counsel for the case, said, “Because cell phone location records can reveal countless private details of our lives, police should only be able to access them by getting a warrant based on probable cause. The time has come for the Supreme Court to make clear that the longstanding protections of the Fourth Amendment apply with undiminished force to these kinds of sensitive digital records.”

The Supreme Court has taken on cases involving law enforcement and technology twice in the past few years. In 2014, the court ruled that police needed a warrant to be able to search seized cellphones during an arrest. In 2012, they also ruled against the police stating that they needed a warrant to place GPS tracking device on vehicles.

Carpenter tried to have the evidence suppressed but was denied and convicted of six robbery counts. When he appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, they upheld the convictions on the basis that a warrant was not required to obtain cellphone information. His civil liberties lawyers argued that “probable cause” was needed so a warrant is required.

Do you think a warrant should be required for police to obtain cell phone records? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about cell phone issues, read these articles:




Associate Attorney Family Law

USA-CA-San Diego

FAMILY LAW-ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY Doppelt and Forney is a growing boutique law firm specializing in F...

Apply now

Associate Attorney


Job details Salary $50,000 - $58,000 a year Job Type Full-time Qualifications ...

Apply now

Real Estate Partner (100% Work From Home)


Culhane Meadows PLLC, one of the largest non-traditional distributed law firms in the country, ...

Apply now

Patent Partner for software, electrical, and electro-mechanical arts (100% Work From Home)


Culhane Meadows is actively seeking a registered patent attorney with  experience in the softwa...

Apply now




Search Now

Associate Attorney

USA-CA-Woodland Hills

Woodland Hills office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks an associate attorney with ...

Apply Now

Associate Attorney


Braintree office of our client seeks associate attorney with 1-5 years of experience in civil litiga...

Apply Now

Criminal Defense Attorney


Raleigh office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks a criminal defense attorney with 1...

Apply Now

Most Popular


To Top