Cell Phone Tracking Unconstitutional Says Ruling

The 11th Circuit, in U.S. v. Quartavious Davis, No. 1:10-cr-20896-JAL-2 (11th Cir. June 12, 2014) holds that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for the government to obtain data from a cell phone tower without “probable cause”.

On June 11, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that obtaining data from a cell phone tower without “probable cause” violated the Fourth Amendment.

In U.S. v. Quartavious Davis, No. 1:10-cr-20896-JAL-2 (11th Cir. Jun. 13, 2014), the Court of Appeals ruled that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning the data transmitted between their cell phone and their network’s cell tower.

Although Fourth Amendment case law has yet to catch up with the realities of modern communication, federal criminal defense attorney Hope C. Lefeber explains that this case is a step in the right direction with regards to cell phone tracking and cell phone tower data.

In this case, the 11th Circuit ruled that because the cell data showed Davis’ whereabouts at any given time, an expectation of privacy arose.

The Court of Appeals further held that Davis’ mere use of his cell phone did not constitute a voluntary disclosure of this data.
Therefore, because this data gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, the Court reasoned that it was covered by the Fourth Amendment and a showing of “probable cause” was needed.

However, as Ms. Lefeber explains, the Fourth Amendment only excludes evidence obtained when the government knew (or should have known) that their actions were unconstitutional.

In this case, because the government relied on a judicial order and federal statute, the District Court’s refusal to suppress the evidence was held not to be reversible error.

This case is important because the appellate court recognized that individuals have a privacy interest giving rise to the Fourth Amendment in cell phone tower data. Hope Lefeber

Therefore, other appellate courts must consider this decision in deciding whether the government has privacy interests in cell phone tracking and many other different forms of data that are created by cell phones and other digital devices.

Hope Lefeber is a federal criminal defense attorney in New York City with over 30 years experience. She is recognized by Superlawyers and is ranked by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the United States.

Ms. Lefeber’s key areas of practice include defense in business and corporate fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, tax fraud and other white collar crimes, conspiracy and drug offenses.

Categories: News, Press Releases