500 words total, 2 citations. 1. The U.S. Supreme Court issued their opinion “whether police officers could seize and search, without a warrant, historical cellphone records showing the location and movements of a suspect. Lower courts had disagreed on the issue, though many had said that officers do not need warrants to access this kind of information and can instead get a user’s past cellphone location data through a court order that does not require probable cause. These courts tended to say that people have no expectation of privacy in cell service providers’ records of cellphone locations that the phones automatically transmit to the providers. The documents identify cellphone towers that are closest to people’s cellphones. Legal scholars who specialize in criminal procedure and privacy rights submitted an amicus curia brief to the Supreme Court in connection with the Carpenter case. The brief argued that electronic information that is automatically generated by individuals’ use of digital devices and collected by third parties (such as cellphone companies) is so personal and extensive that the government should not be able to gain access to it without a warrant based on probable cause” (The Criminal Law Handbook, n.d.). After reading through the case, I agree with the decision that the “government’s warrantless acquisition of Carpenter’s cell-site records violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures” (Carpenter v. the United States, n.d.). Today cameras watch everything we do while our phones record our location and continually sync data even if it is only to update to the newest version on Facebook. The perceived expectation of privacy is already low because of technical advances today. However, from a tech perspective, I see many users just clicking agree or accept button without reading the agreement to later find their information was sold or they indivertibly agreed to something they did not intend to. The user did not have a full understanding of the magnitude of the contract they just clicked. I know that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, but again we are not all lawyers and still take things in good faith that there is an expectation of privacy. In my opinion, the courts have not fully embraced the digital age, and further decisions will arise of expectation of privacy. The court acknowledged that the users know that providers keep records, but should that information be readily available to law enforcement without using the proper steps to get a warrant to access that information. One example pertinent to the digital age I can think of was the Apple v. the FBI. “The dispute between Apple and the FBI arises out of an application that the agency filed with a federal magistrate judge in California, seeking assistance with the search of a recovered iPhone that during the investigation into the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, CA. The FBI was unable to access data on the locked iPhone, which was owned by the San Bernardino Health Department, but used by one of the perpetrators and requested that the Court order Apple to assist in decrypting the phone. But, because Apple has no way to access the encrypted data on the seized iPhone, the FBI applied for an order requiring Apple to create a custom operating system that would disable key security features on the iPhone. The court issued an order requiring that this custom hacking tool be created and installed by Apple without unlocking or otherwise changing the data on the phone. Apple has opposed the order because it is unlawful and unconstitutional. Apple argues that if the court grants the order, it will undermine the security of all Apple devices and set a dangerous precedent for future cases” (Center, n.d.). Although I am for catching the bad guy, I also believe in defending the rights of the individual as well. If Apple created a backdoor for law enforcement, then that backdoor is also accessible to the criminal element thus making Apple phones less secure. If nothing else Apple proved to the world that their phones encryption methods were working. One article wrote, “the Supreme Court often engages in equilibrium-adjustment when new technology threatens the balance of government power. If technology gives the government too much new power that can be abused based on old rules, the court expands legal protection to restore old levels of power and limit abuses. On the flip side, if technology threatens to narrow government power too much, that can unduly limit the government’s ability to solve crimes under old rules, the court shrinks legal protection to restore old levels of power and ensure the government can still solve enough cases” (Kerr, 2018).2: What is the dissent’s strongest argument? Although there were different opinions in the dissents overall, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas had similarities in theirs. Justice Thomas wrote, “This case should not turn on ‘whether’ a search occurred,” he states. “It should turn, instead, on whose property was searched. In Carpenter, he argues, the CSLI records “belong to MetroPCS and Sprint.” He goes a step further than Kennedy, arguing that the reasonable-expectation-of-privacy test “has no basis in the text or history of the Fourth Amendment. And, it invites courts to make judgments about policy, not law.” ” (McCubbin, 2018). Justice Alito “begins by noting that while he shares concerns about the “effect of new technology on personal privacy. The majority’s reasoning “fractures two fundamental pillars of Fourth Amendment law, and in doing so, it guarantees a blizzard of litigation while threatening many legitimate and valuable investigative practices upon which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely” (McCubbin, 2018). Alito’s dissent focuses on two issues: “the distinction between a search and an order requiring the disclosure of documents, and the fact that CSLI is the property of the service provider. “By departing dramatically from these fundamental principles,” Alito writes, “the Court destabilizes long-established Fourth Amendment doctrine” (McCubbin, 2018). Both Justice’s focus was on the owner of the property (phone records) and the means law enforcement used to retrieve those records. Not saying that their opinion was wrong, but that current views might need to be revised with current technology. ReferencesCarpenter v. the United States. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-402Center, E. P. I. (n.d.). EPIC – Carpenter v. the United States. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://epic.org/amicus/location/carpenter/Center, E. P. I. (n.d.). EPIC – Apple v. FBI. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://epic.org/amicus/crypto/apple/Kerr, O. (2018, June 22). First Thoughts on Carpenter v. the United States. Reason.Com. https://reason.com/2018/06/22/first-thoughts-on-carpenter-v-united-sta/McCubbin, S. (2018, June 22). Summary: The Supreme Court Rules in Carpenter v. the United States. Lawfare. https://www.lawfareblog.com/summary-supreme-court-rules-carpenter-v-united-statesThe Criminal Law Handbook. (n.d.). Nolo.Com. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://store.nolo.com/products/the-criminal-law-handbook-kyr.html
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Carpenter v. United States, 585
U.S. ___ (2018)
Justia Opinion Summary and Annotations
When a phone connects to a cell site, it generates time-stamped cell-site location
information (CSLI) that is stored by wireless carriers for business purposes. The
FBI identified the cell phone numbers of robbery suspects. Prosecutors obtained
court orders to get the suspects’ CSLI under the Stored Communications Act,
which requires “reasonable grounds” for believing that the records were
“relevant and material to an ongoing investigation,” 18 U.S.C. 2703(d), rather
than a showing of probable cause. With CSLI for Carpenter’s phone, the
government cataloged Carpenter’s movements over 127 days, showing that
Carpenter’s phone was near four robbery locations at the time those robberies
occurred. After denial of his motion to suppress, Carpenter was convicted. The
Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the acquisition
of Carpenter’s cell-site records was a Fourth Amendment search. The Fourth
Amendment protects expectations of privacy “that society is prepared to
recognize as reasonable” so that official intrusion generally qualifies as a search
and requires a warrant supported by probable cause. Historical cell-site records
give the government near-perfect surveillance, allow it to travel back in time to
retrace a person’s whereabouts. Rejecting an argument that the third-party
doctrine governed these “business records,” the Court noted the “world of
difference between the limited types of personal information” addressed in
precedent and the “exhaustive chronicle of location information casually
collected by wireless carriers.” CSLI is not truly “shared” because cell phones are
an indispensable, pervasive part of daily life and they log CSLI without any
affirmative act by the user. The Court noted that its decision is narrow and does
not address conventional surveillance tools, such as security cameras, other
business records that might reveal location information, or collection techniques
involving foreign affairs or national security.
Annotation
Primary Holding
Obtaining cell-site location information constitutes a search under the Fourth
Amendment, requiring a warrant supported by probable cause.
Syllabus
Opinion (Roberts)
Dissent (Alito)
Dissent (Thomas)
Dissent (Gorsuch)
Dissent (Kennedy)
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify
the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington,
D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that
corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
_________________
No. 16–402
_________________
TIMOTHY IVORY CARPENTER, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
[June 22, 2018]
Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether the Government conducts a search
under the Fourth Amendment when it accesses historical cell phone records that
provide a comprehensive chronicle of the user’s past movements.
I
A
There are 396 million cell phone service accounts in the United States—for a
Nation of 326 million people. Cell phones perform their wide and growing
variety of functions by connecting to a set of radio antennas called “cell sites.”
Although cell sites are usually mounted on a tower, they can also be found on
light posts, flagpoles, church steeples, or the sides of buildings. Cell sites
typically have several directional antennas that divide the covered area into
sectors.
Cell phones continuously scan their environment looking for the best signal,
which generally comes from the closest cell site. Most modern devices, such as
smartphones, tap into the wireless network several times a minute whenever
their signal is on, even if the owner is not using one of the phone’s features. Each
time the phone connects to a cell site, it generates a time-stamped record known
as cell-site location information (CSLI). The precision of this information
depends on the size of the geographic area covered by the cell site. The greater
the concentration of cell sites, the smaller the coverage area. As data usage from
cell phones has increased, wireless carriers have installed more cell sites to
handle the traffic. That has led to increasingly compact coverage areas,
especially in urban areas.
Wireless carriers collect and store CSLI for their own business purposes,
including finding weak spots in their network and applying “roaming” charges
when another carrier routes data through their cell sites. In addition, wireless
carriers often sell aggregated location records to data brokers, without individual
identifying information of the sort at issue here. While carriers have long
retained CSLI for the start and end of incoming calls, in recent years phone
companies have also collected location information from the transmission of text
messages and routine data connections. Accordingly, modern cell phones
generate increasingly vast amounts of increasingly precise CSLI.
B
In 2011, police officers arrested four men suspected of robbing a series of Radio
Shack and (ironically enough) T-Mobile stores in Detroit. One of the men
confessed that, over the previous four months, the group (along with a rotating
cast of getaway drivers and lookouts) had robbed nine different stores in
Michigan and Ohio. The suspect identified 15 accomplices who had participated
in the heists and gave the FBI some of their cell phone numbers; the FBI then
reviewed his call records to identify additional numbers that he had called
around the time of the robberies.
Based on that information, the prosecutors applied for court orders under the
Stored Communications Act to obtain cell phone records for petitioner Timothy
Carpenter and several other suspects. That statute, as amended in 1994, permits
the Government to compel the disclosure of certain telecommunications records
when it “offers specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable
grounds to believe” that the records sought “are relevant and material to an
ongoing criminal investigation.” 18 U. S. C. §2703(d). Federal Magistrate Judges
issued two orders directing Carpenter’s wireless carriers—MetroPCS and Sprint
—to disclose “cell/site sector [information] for [Carpenter’s] telephone[ ] at call
origination and at call termination for incoming and outgoing calls” during the
four-month period when the string of robberies occurred. App. to Pet. for Cert.
60a, 72a. The first order sought 152 days of cell-site records from MetroPCS,
which produced records spanning 127 days. The second order requested seven
days of CSLI from Sprint, which produced two days of records covering the
period when Carpenter’s phone was “roaming” in northeastern Ohio. Altogether
the Government obtained 12,898 location points cataloging Carpenter’s
movements—an average of 101 data points per day.
Carpenter was charged with six counts of robbery and an additional six counts of
carrying a firearm during a federal crime of violence. See 18 U. S. C. §§924(c),
y g
g
§§9 4( ),
1951(a). Prior to trial, Carpenter moved to suppress the cell-site data provided by
the wireless carriers. He argued that the Government’s seizure of the records
violated the Fourth Amendment because they had been obtained without a
warrant supported by probable cause. The District Court denied the motion.
App. to Pet. for Cert. 38a–39a.
At trial, seven of Carpenter’s confederates pegged him as the leader of the
operation. In addition, FBI agent Christopher Hess offered expert testimony
about the cell-site data. Hess explained that each time a cell phone taps into the
wireless network, the carrier logs a time-stamped record of the cell site and
particular sector that were used. With this information, Hess produced maps
that placed Carpenter’s phone near four of the charged robberies. In the
Government’s view, the location records clinched the case: They confirmed that
Carpenter was “right where the . . . robbery was at the exact time of the robbery.”
App. 131 (closing argument). Carpenter was convicted on all but one of the
firearm counts and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 819 F. 3d 880 (2016). The
court held that Carpenter lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the
location information collected by the FBI because he had shared that
information with his wireless carriers. Given that cell phone users voluntarily
convey cell-site data to their carriers as “a means of establishing
communication,” the court concluded that the resulting business records are not
entitled to Fourth Amendment protection. Id., at 888 (quoting Smith v.
Maryland, 442 U. S. 735, 741 (1979)).
We granted certiorari. 582 U. S. ___ (2017).
II
A
The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures.” The “basic purpose of this Amendment,” our cases have recognized, “is
to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions
b
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i i
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f Ci
dC
f
by governmental officials.” Camara v. Municipal Court of City and County of
San Francisco, 387 U. S. 523, 528 (1967). The Founding generation crafted the
Fourth Amendment as a “response to the reviled ‘general warrants’ and ‘writs of
assistance’ of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage
through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity.” Riley
v. California, 573 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 27). In fact, as John Adams
recalled, the patriot James Otis’s 1761 speech condemning writs of assistance
was “the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain” and
helped spark the Revolution itself. Id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 27–28) (quoting
10 Works of John Adams 248 (C. Adams ed. 1856)).
For much of our history, Fourth Amendment search doctrine was “tied to
common-law trespass” and focused on whether the Government “obtains
information by physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area.” United
States v. Jones, 565 U. S. 400, 405, 406, n. 3 (2012). More recently, the Court
has recognized that “property rights are not the sole measure of Fourth
Amendment violations.” Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U. S. 56, 64 (1992). In Katz
v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, 351 (1967), we established that “the Fourth
Amendment protects people, not places,” and expanded our conception of the
Amendment to protect certain expectations of privacy as well. When an
individual “seeks to preserve something as private,” and his expectation of
privacy is “one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable,” we have held
that official intrusion into that private sphere generally qualifies as a search and
requires a warrant supported by probable cause. Smith, 442 U. S., at 740
(internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).
Although no single rubric definitively resolves which expectations of privacy are
entitled to protection,[1] the analysis is informed by historical understandings
“of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when [the Fourth
Amendment] was adopted.” Carroll v. United States, 267 U. S. 132, 149 (1925).
On this score, our cases have recognized some basic guideposts. First, that the
Amendment seeks to secure “the privacies of life” against “arbitrary power.”
Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 630 (1886). Second, and relatedly, that a
central aim of the Framers was “to place obstacles in the way of a too permeating
police surveillance.” United States v. Di Re, 332 U. S. 581, 595 (1948).
We have kept this attention to Founding-era understandings in mind when
applying the Fourth Amendment to innovations in surveillance tools. As
technology has enhanced the Government’s capacity to encroach upon areas
normally guarded from inquisitive eyes, this Court has sought to “assure[ ]
preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the
Fourth Amendment was adopted.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 34
(2001). For that reason, we rejected in Kyllo a “mechanical interpretation” of the
Fourth Amendment and held that use of a thermal imager to detect heat
radiating from the side of the defendant’s home was a search. Id., at 35. Because
any other conclusion would leave homeowners “at the mercy of advancing
technology,” we determined that the Government—absent a warrant—could not
capitalize on such new sense-enhancing technology to explore what was
happening within the home. Ibid.
Likewise in Riley, the Court recognized the “immense storage capacity” of
modern cell phones in holding that police officers must generally obtain a
warrant before searching the contents of a phone. 573 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at
17). We explained that while the general rule allowing warrantless searches
incident to arrest “strikes the appropriate balance in the context of physical
objects, neither of its rationales has much force with respect to” the vast store of
sensitive information on a cell phone. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 9).
B
The case before us involves the Government’s acquisition of wireless carrier cellsite records revealing the location of Carpenter’s cell phone whenever it made or
received calls. This sort of digital data—personal location information
maintained by a third party—does not fit neatly under existing precedents.
Instead, requests for cell-site records lie at the intersection of two lines of cases,
both of which inform our understanding of the privacy interests at stake.
The first set of cases addresses a person’s expectation of privacy in his physical
location and movements. In United States v. Knotts, 460 U. S. 276 (1983), we
considered the Government’s use of a “beeper” to aid in tracking a vehicle
through traffic. Police officers in that case planted a beeper in a container of
chloroform before it was purchased by one of Knotts’s co-conspirators The
chloroform before it was purchased by one of Knotts s co conspirators. The
officers (with intermittent aerial assistance) then followed the automobile
carrying the container from Minneapolis to Knotts’s cabin in Wisconsin, relying
on the beeper’s signal to help keep the vehicle in view. The Court concluded that
the “augment[ed]” visual surveillance did not constitute a search because “[a]
person traveling in an automobile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable
expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.” Id., at 281,
282. Since the movements of the vehicle and its final destination had been
“voluntarily conveyed to anyone who wanted to look,” Knotts could not assert a
privacy interest in the information obtained. Id., at 281.
This Court in Knotts, however, was careful to distinguish between the
rudimentary tracking facilitated by the beeper and more sweeping modes of
surveillance. The Court emphasized the “limited use which the government
made of the signals from this particular beeper” during a discrete “automotive
journey.” Id., at 284, 285. Significantly, the Court reserved the question whether
“different constitutional principles may be applicable” if “twenty-four hour
surveillance of any citizen of this country [were] possible.” Id., at 283–284.
Three decades later, the Court considered more sophisticated surveillance of the
sort envisioned in Knotts and found that different principles did indeed apply. In
United States v. Jones, FBI agents installed a GPS tracking device on Jones’s
vehicle and remotely monitored the vehicle’s movements for 28 days. The Court
decided the case based on the Government’s physical trespass of the vehicle. 565
U. S., at 404–405. At the same time, five Justices agreed that related privacy
concerns would be raised by, for example, “surreptitiously activating a stolen
vehicle detection system” in Jones’s car to track Jones himself, or conducting
GPS tracking of his cell phone. Id., at 426, 428 (Alito, J., concurring in
judgment); id., at 415 (Sotomayor, J., concurring). Since GPS monitoring of a
vehicle tracks “every movement” a person makes in that vehicle, the concurring
Justices concluded that “longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most
offenses impinges on expectations of privacy”—regardless whether those
movements were disclosed to the public at large. Id., at 430 (opinion of Alito,
J.); id., at 415 (opinion of Sotomayor, J.).[2]
In a second set of decisions, the Court has drawn a line between what a person
keeps to himself and what he shares with others. We have previously held that “a
person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily
turns over to third parties.” Smith, 442 U. S., at 743–744. That remains true
“even if the information is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only
for a limited purpose.” United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435, 443 (1976). As a
result, the Government is typically free to obtain such information from the
recipient without triggering Fourth Amendment protections.
This third-party doctrine largely traces its roots to Miller. While investigating
Miller for tax evasion, the Government subpoenaed his banks, seeking several
months of canceled checks, deposit slips, and monthly statements. The Court
rejected a Fourth Amendment challenge to the records collection. For one,
Miller could “assert neither ownership nor possession” of the documents; they
were “business records of the banks.” Id., at 440. For another, the nature of
those records confirmed Miller’s limited expectation of privacy, because the
checks were “not confidential communications but negotiable instruments to be
used in commercial transactions,” and the bank statements contained
information “exposed to [bank] employees in the ordinary course of business.”
Id., at 442. The Court thus concluded that Miller had “take[n] the risk, in
revealing his affairs to another, that the information [would] be conveyed by that
person to the Government.” Id., at 443.
Three years later, Smith applied the same principles in the context of
information conveyed to a telephone com- pany. The Court ruled that the
Government’s use of a pen register—a device that recorded the outgoing phone
numbers dialed on a landline telephone—was not a search. Noting the pen
register’s “limited capabilities,” the Court “doubt[ed] that people in general
entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial.” 442 U. S.,
at 742. Telephone subscribers know, after all, that the numbers are used by the
telephone company “for a variety of legitimate business purposes,” including
routing calls. Id., at 743. And at any rate, the Court explained, such an
expectation “is not one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.” Ibid.
(internal quotation marks omitted). When Smith placed a call, he “voluntarily
conveyed” the dialed numbers to the phone company by “expos[ing] that
information to its equipment in the ordinary course of business.” Id., at 744
(i
l
i
k
i d) O
i
h ld h h d f d
(internal quotation marks omitted). Once again, we held that the defendant
“assumed the risk” that the company’s records “would be divulged to police.” Id.,
at 745.
III
The question we confront today is how to apply the Fourth Amendment to a new
phenomenon: the ability to chronicle a person’s past movements through the
record of his cell phone signals. Such tracking partakes of many of …
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