The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in Carpenter v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine, “[w]hether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment.” The Stored Communications Act (SCA) [text] allows the government to obtain records without a showing of probable cause whenever 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.” The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that there is no expectation of privacy in these types of records.
New technology has created a number of Fourth Amendment issues that have come before the court. The court declined to rule in a similar case [JURIST report] in 2015. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that police officers must obtain a warrant [JURIST report] before searching a person’s cell phone data, even at the time of arrest. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s attachment of a global positioning system (GPS) device to a vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search [JURIST report] under the Fourth Amendment.