Tag Archives: 4th amendment

Government Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants

Mostly everyone has a cell phone.  A lot of smartphones have GPS capabilities.  This can be handy when you are looking for directions and you are lost.  However, what about being tracked?  For instance, unless you change your privacy settings, your photos will keep track of where you took the picture and what time.

The question the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided is whether the government needs a warrant to track you.  In In re: Application of the U.S.A. for Historical Cell Site Data (July 30, 2013 5th Cir. Ct.), the court ruled that obtaining cell-location information without a warrant  did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

When we think of the Fourth Amendment we remember that a search and seizure may require a warrant.  If there is no expectation of privacy, i.e. in a garbage bag we got rid of, then the government wouldn’t need a warrant.  However, if we have an expectation of privacy, i.e. to enter your house, then the government must have a warrant.

An expectation of privacy usually is the crux of a search and seizure case.  Here, the ACLU argued that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are being tracked for a long period of time and the data gathered is collected in great detail.

In this case, this argument was not discussed by the court.

Why would this not be discussed?  The Fourth Amendment deals with government actions.  In other words,  the seizure or search has to be collected by the government.  In a similar case, the Supreme Court had decided that the government must obtain a warrant if it wants to install a GPS tracking device.  See United States v. Jones (2012).

However, this case was found to be different.  The reason for this is because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the information was collected by a third-party, i.e. the cell phone carrier.  The court explained,

Where a third party collects information in the first instance for its own purposes, the Government claims that it can obtain this information later with a [section] 2703(d) order, just as it can subpoena other records of a private entity.  We agree.

Id. (citations omitted).

Here, the government was not installing a GPS tracking device.  The Government was accessing a business record owned by carriers.  The court stated:

… cell site information is clearly a business record.  The cell service provider collects and stores historical cell site data for its own business purposes, perhaps to monitor or optimize service on its network or to accurately bill its customers for the segments of its network that they use.   The Government does not require service providers to record this information or store it.  The providers control what they record and how long these records are retained.

Consequently, the court found that the Government did not need a warrant.

via Cops Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants, Appeals Court Rules | Threat Level | Wired.com.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, courts, discovery, electronic discovery, federal, legal decision, legal research, Privacy Rights, technology

Government settles lawsuit on warrantless home raids of immigrants

I came across this interesting settlement between the U.S. Government and nearly a dozen Latino immigrants.  The lawsuit alleged that immigration agents  committed widespread 4th Amendment violations when conducting home raids of immigrants.

One plaintiff alleged that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents pounded on doors before being allowed entry, swept through the homes, and terrorized the children.  The immigrants were U.S. citizens.  Another plaintiff alleged that when the home raids occurred she was 12-years old and that after busting in the ICE agents falsely told her “someone was dying upstairs.”

The District court approved of the stipulation and ordered the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Pursuant to the stipulation, the government will pay a $1 million settlement.  The settlement also provides that pending immigration proceedings will be terminated or delayed against eight (8) of the plaintiffs arrested during the raids.

Further, ICE will adopt policy changes for agents conducting warrantless home operations.  ICE agents must:

  • “seek consent to enter or search a private residence in a language understood by the resident whenever feasible;
  • they must have Spanish-speaking officers available to seek such consent when the target is from a Spanish-speaking country;
  • they must seek consent to to enter the outside areas of homes when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a backyard; and
  • they must not conduct protective sweeps through the homes without an articulable suspicion of danger.”

(bullet points added).

via Courthouse News Service.

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, immigration

DNA collection of arrested individuals

This month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue of whether it is constitutional for the State to require DNA collection of arrested individuals.  The case is Maryland v. King.  The argument is set for February 26, 2013.

As way of background:

  • The federal government and at least 26 states (including California, Illinois, and Florida) take DNA samples from some or all who are arrested but not yet convicted of serious crimes.
  • Last month, President Obama signed into law the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act.  The statute will help pay the start-up costs for other states to begin testing people who are arrested.

So what does this issue mean?  The issue is whether the State, without a search warrant, can take a DNA swap of an arrested individual – who has not been convicted.

The Maryland Court of Appeals stated the 4th amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, protects people who haven’t been convicted from having to provide DNA evidence.  In addition, the court stated, “Although arrestees do not have all the expectations of privacy enjoyed by the general public, the presumption of innocence bestows on them greater protections than convicted felons, parolees or probationers.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals further explained that DNA samples “contain a massive amount of deeply personal information.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, Privacy Rights, waiver