Cellphone snooping by police without a warrant got deservedly smacked by an appeals court, setting the stage for a broader U.S. Supreme Court hearing this fall involving Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
Ruling 2-1, the D.C. Court of Appeals determined that the use of cellphone-surveillance technology known as a Stingray to track a suspected robber/sexual predator amounted to a warrantless search and “invaded a reasonable expectation of privacy.” As such, the court tossed out all evidence against the defendant, vacating his nine-count felony conviction for sexually assaulting and robbing two women at knifepoint, The Washington Post reported.
“Allowing the government to deploy such a powerful tool without judicial oversight would surely ‘shrink the realm of guaranteed privacy,'” wrote Judge Corinne Beckwith for the court’s majority.
Individuals’ right to privacy has been upheld in similar cases, and the Justice Department now advises that warrants should be obtained before the use of cellphone-tracking technology. Without due regard for these court rulings, which reinforce the importance of warrants, police risk important criminal cases.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the appeal of another man convicted in a series of robberies after police obtained his cellphone location from a third-party service provider. We trust the high court will close a door to warrantless searches that never should have been opened.
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