A decision by a lower court over cell phone records as evidence and conviction has been over turned by a Court of Appeals. The decision over turned is that the defendants Fourth Amendment Rights were not violated. The defendants cell phone records were obtained without warrant (unreasonable search & seizure) and were used, as sole evidence, to convict him in a number of robberies. The robberies happened in 2010 over a 2 month period in Miami (Dade). There is now an appeal under way to the Supreme Court. Police are not required to obtain a warrant to track a cell phone and the implications within the U.S. may well be far reaching.

The defendant (Quartavious Davis) is currently serving around 162 years in a Virginia prison without the possibility of parole. The crimes were carried out at the age of 18 and prior to that he had a fairly clean criminal record. The writ was filed on 30th July and the use of cell phone records without warrant is being challenged. Ordinarily law enforcement request correct documentation before a judge to obtain cell phone records information, It is not required to establish probable cause as the cell phone records can be claimed as being relevant to investigations. Attorney’s contest that phone records may well reveal an individual’s location but a warrant is required should the activity be within a defendants home or a private space.

CSLI (cell site location information) collected over time is invariably private and sensitive and this it is claimed violates expectation of privacy. A previous case in 2012 involved a ruling that attaching GPS to a suspect (without warrant) drug smuggler was unconstitutional. Police used the GPS 24/7 for 4 weeks. Along with his accomplices Davis committed the thefts over a 3 month period and there were 11,606 phone records giving location.

It is unclear as to how the phone records were obtained confirmed The American Civil Liberties Union. Data falls in to 2 categories, real time and historical. Law enforcement are able to obtain historical phone records but with the correct legal documentation. Alternative tracking is available known as ISMI which mimic cell phone towers and are typically clandestine tactics to track individuals without a warrant. This information has not been confirmed under a public records request as the response by Broward Sheriff’s Office is that it may well jeopardize personnel along with ongoing and future investigations.

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