These days, technology is advancing faster than legislators can regulate it. That means some things get regulated long after they have become commonly used by the public and many legal issues are sorted out by the court one confusing piece at a time. Right now, cellphones are often involved in these issues and while the Supreme Court has determined that police need a warrant to search your phone, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia has ruled that the police can track you without a warrant if you use your phone’s location service. Here’s what you should know about the decision according to Oceanside defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
First of all, you should know that while California is not part of the 4th Circuit courts, rulings like these tend to guide the law until another court reaches a differing decision or until the state or national legislature write a specific law about the matter. So right now, police in Escondido have technically been given permission to track people without a warrant using their target’s GPS data on his or her cellphone.
Police need a warrant to track your car, but the court has determined that if you provide this information willingly to a third party, the police can access it from that party without your consent. This means that if you absolutely do not want to provide police with the ability to track your whereabouts, you need to leave your phone at home or turn off all location services -meaning not just GPS, but also any apps that request information based on your location. If you aren’t sure whether or not you can be tracked legally, you can always ask your Encinitas criminal attorney to help you clarify your situation.
While you can never be certain of a Supreme Court decision before it is made, it does seem likely that the highest court in the states would disagree with the 4th Circuit’s ruling based on the court’s decision that all cellphone searches require a warrant. This means that if the police did use your phone’s GPS data to trace your location without a warrant, you could hope to overturn a guilty verdict through appeal assuming you were willing to appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Even if you lost a suppression motion to keep this information from affecting your case in your original trial, it is critical that you work with a top defense lawyer in San Marcos if you hope to appeal your case.
If you have any questions about this ruling or want to know how you can protect your privacy from police tracking, please call (760) 643-4050 to speak with skilled Carlsbad defense attorney Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by William Hook