Carpenter v. U.S.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: June 5, 2017
  • Case #: No. 16-402
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 819 F.3d 880 (6th Cir. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures protects from the government's warrantless collection of cell phone data that includes the cell user’s historic location.

The FBI obtained an order from a magistrate to seek Petitioners’ cell phone data from their cell phone providers, including site data, pursuant to the reasonable suspicion standard set forth in the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d). Petitioners were charged with aiding and abetting robbery as a result of the investigation, and Petitioners unsuccessfully attempted to suppress the data. The government used the data to convict Petitioners of the charges. On appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the convictions were affirmed. The Circuit determined that the government did not unreasonably invade Petitioners’ privacy, under the Katz standard, because the information was obtained from a third party. The Circuit also noted that the Petitioners’ lack of a property interest in the site data, under the United States v. Jones inquiry, did not create a trespass by the government, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Petitioners argue that the cell phone provider third party access does not end the Fourth Amendment inquiry, because the volume and sensitivity of the data creates a constitutionally protected privacy interest. Petitioners argue that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to meet the probable cause standard to obtain the private data.

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