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August 2, 2018

Before the Bar | Week 6

Before the Bar | Week 6

This week, meet Carlos, who will be discussing the details and legal implications of the government's methodology in retrieving your location via cell signal.

This week’s case involves the Government and its methodology in retrieving your location via cell signal. As of June 2018, the Government and police officers alike must now obtain a warrant in order to retrieve your Cell-site location Information (“CSLI”). While this may not seem monumental, this new law has had the ability to exonerate or convict a defendant, serving as a determinative piece evidence within a case. We can see a primary example of how this information changes the outlook of a trial when reviewing Carpenter v. United States.

Your CSLI is the signal/connection that links to the closest cell tower which transmits your info in regards to location among other things to your phone provider. Carpenter was one of many accomplices that robbed a string of T-Mobile stores and Radio Shacks. When one of the robbers was taken into custody, he willingly gave the cell phone numbers of all those involved. The police received court orders to view the cell signal of Carpenter’s phone through application of 2703(d) orders to produce “transactional records.” This order assisted in pinpointing his locations around the crime scenes which, among other factors, led to Carpenter’s conviction and lengthy sentence.

After these proceedings, the Supreme Court ruled that the court order did not contain enough proof to establish a warrant of probable cause. The issue remains that the method in which the police retrieved the CSLI evidence was not lawful and should therefore not have been admissible in a court of law. The defense claimed that the CSLI constituted an obstruction of his 4th amendment right but this position was eventually denied by the Sixth Circuit. This was due to the fact that the CSLI was deemed a “business record” according to a previous case, Smith v. Maryland.

This matter serves as the foundation for how the Government is to proceed with obtaining a warrant supported by probable cause.

- Carlos Orbe Jr.

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