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Search and seizure of cell phone records may require a warrant

It's no secret that the law struggles to keep up with technology. In fact, in many cases, laws change because individuals file lawsuits that claim their rights have been violated through the unregulated use of technology. North Carolina residents who have concerns about the way law enforcement a at the state and federal levels discover incriminating evidence through technology may be interested in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that may affect search and seizure laws across the country.

A man in another state is accused of coordinating a string of crimes. He was convicted of numerous robberies in addition to weapons charges based on evidence investigators gathered from his cell phone records. Federal authorities obtained detailed information about the accused's whereabouts at the times the crimes occurred because cell phone technology tracked the user's location based on cell tower transmissions.

In the appeal of his conviction, the man complains that authorities obtained the information without a warrant. Further, the use of cell phone records may present a breach of privacy for millions whose most intimate movements throughout the day may be accessed by investigators without due process. The federal government says the man has no reasonable expectation of privacy since the phone company already has access to those supposedly private details; therefore, they did not need a warrant to obtain the records.

If the Supreme Court agrees that the man's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when investigators seized the phone records, the subsequent conviction may be overturned. On a wider scale, authorities will have to devise methods of search and seizure that take into consideration the right to privacy the Court may establish for people who use cell phones. With the aid of an attorney, anyone in North Carolina who feels their criminal conviction was based on improperly obtained evidence may consider pursuing an appeal.

Source: ABC News, "Supreme Court hears case on tracking cellphones without a warrant", Audrey Taylor, Nov. 29, 2017

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Search and seizure of cell phone records may require a warrant | Messer Law Firm