Appeals Court Overturns Privacy Win in Phone-Tracking Case

Posted: May 5, 2015 in Tech

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Police don’t need a warrant to track the cellphones of criminal suspects, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday, reversing an early decision in a closely watched privacy case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta held that the government didn’t violate the privacy rights of a man convicted of a 2010 armed robbery spree and sentenced to life in prison.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals covers the states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, meaning that police in those three states can now demand cellphone location records without a warrant.

The case is the latest test of the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure in the digital age.

At issue in the ruling is a case that went to trial in 2012, where prosecutors presented cell tower location data that placed the defendant, Quartavius Davis, and his cohorts near the scene of the robberies. To obtain a court order for the records, covering a 67-day period, prosecutors didn’t need a search warrant backed by probable cause. They had just needed to show that the information obtained from a T-Mobile-owned prepaid wireless service was relevant and material their investigation.

While vacating the panel opinion, the en banc court upheld Mr. Davis’s conviction based on a legal doctrine known as the Good Faith Exception, which says courts may not suppress evidence if police had good reason to believe their actions were legal under existing statute.

Full Story @ [Wall Street Journal]

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