Legal News

Supreme Court Rules Police Needs Warrants to Track People Through Their Cell Phone
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Summary: The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement generally needed a warrant to use cell phones to monitor suspects. 

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with citizens and said that law enforcement could not track them using their cell phones without a warrant.


According to Fox News, Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in this decision, and he was joined by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The case focused on the Fourth Amendment and whether or not police were required to have a warrant to access a suspect’s cellphone location history.

“It is the latest foray by the justices into how laws should be tailored to keep up with technological advances,” Fox News said. “The stakes were enormous, since this judicial precedent could be applied more broadly, including government access to Internet, bank, credit card and telephone records.”

Roberts said that after this case warrants will always be needed to access electronic and cell phone records.

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!!

“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Chief Roberts wrote. “The fact that such information is gathered by a third party does not make it any less deserving of Fourth Amendment protection. The Government’s acquisition of the cell-site records here was a search under that Amendment.”

Privacy and civil rights advocates said that current law allows law enforcement to access over 300,000 communications towers to discover where people are using their smartphone data. The US Justice Department argued that cell phone users knowingly gave away their information and therefore had no right to privacy.

The Supreme Court case was brought on by Timothy Carpenter, who had been arrested for robbery in Michigan and Ohio. He and his colleague were convicted after police used cell phone records to locate him during the crimes, and no warrants were used to obtain his location information.

Carpenter had appealed to have his conviction thrown out and the evidence dismissed.

“The government’s position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s, not for a short period but for years and years,” Roberts wrote.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the dissent and said that the ruling could inhibit law enforcement. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.

“This case should be resolved by interpreting accepted property principles as the baseline for reasonable expectations of privacy,” Kennedy said. “Here the government did not search anything over which Carpenter could assert ownership or control. Instead, it issued a court-authorized subpoena to a third party to disclose information it alone owned and controlled. That should suffice to resolve this case.”

ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler argued the case and called it “groundbreaking.”

“This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age,” Wessler said. “The Supreme Court has given privacy law an update that it has badly needed for many years, finally bringing it in line with the realities of modern life. The government can no longer claim that the mere act of using technology eliminates the Fourth Amendment’s protections.”

What do you think of the Supreme Court decision? Let us know in the comments below.


Interesting Legal Sites You May Like




Search Now

Corporate, Mergers and Acquisitions and Securities Associate Attorney

USA-NY-New York City

New York City office of our client seeks corporate, mergers and acquisitions and securities associat...

Apply Now

Business Litigation Attorney

USA-CA-Santa Monica

Santa Monica office of our client seeks business litigation attorney with 1-3 years of experience. T...

Apply Now

Intellectual Property Litigation / Enforcement Associate Attorney

USA-CA-San Francisco

San Francisco office of our client seeks intellectual property litigation / enforcement associate at...

Apply Now

Eminent Domain Attorney


Richmond office of our client seeks eminent domain attorney with 5+ years of experience. The candida...

Apply Now


Hotline & Training Managing Attorney (IMMIGRATION)

USA-NY-New York City

The Hotline & Training Services Managing Attorney will guide, develop, and supervise the Hotline sta...

Apply now

Litigation paralegal


We are looking to immediately hire a responsible, highly organized, self-motivated litigation parale...

Apply now



Associate Attorney – 7 to 10 Years’ Experience - Dallas/Fort Worth   ...

Apply now

Associate Attorney


Associate Attorney – 3 to 5 Years’ Experience - Dallas/Fort Worth   ...

Apply now


To Top