Court Says Warrantless Cellphone Tracking Not Illegal
By D.B. Hirsch
May 5, 2015 2:00 pm - NewsBehavingBadly.com
A federal appeals court says a warrant isn’t needed for cellphone tower tracking.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning a three-judge panel of the same court, concluded that authorities properly got 67 days’ worth of records from MetroPCS for Miami robbery suspect Quartavious Davis using a court order with a lower burden of proof.
In its 9-2 decision, the 11th Circuit decided Davis had no expectation of privacy regarding historical records establishing his location near certain cellphone towers. The records were key evidence used to convict Davis of a string of armed robberies, leading to a 162-year prison sentence.
In fact, Circuit Judge Frank M. Hull wrote for the majority, it’s clear that cellphone users in today’s society understand how companies collect data about calls and that cell towers are a key part of that.
“We find no reason to conclude that cellphone users lack facts about the functions of cell towers or about telephone providers’ recording cell tower usage,” Hull wrote. “This cell tower method of call connecting does not require a different constitutional result just because the telephone company has decided to automate wirelessly.”
Two judges dissented, contending the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and a search warrant for such records and some judges in the majority agreed in separate opinions that the U.S. Supreme Court should make the ultimate decision. Davis attorney David O. Markus said the dissent could provide a “roadmap” for a likely appeal to the high court.