July 22, 2018

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SCOTUS Requires Warrant for Cell Phone Location Records

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the government’s acquisition of information regarding an individual’s location based on a cell phone record amounts to a Fourth Amendment search and generally requires a warrant.  In Carpenter v. United States, the government obtained nearly 13,000 location points on Carpenter’s movements over a 127-day period from Carpenter’s wireless carrier under the Stored Communications Act (SCA).  The standard for obtaining information under the SCA is much lower than the probable cause showing required for a warrant.  The government used these cell phone records to show that Carpenter’s phone was near four locations that had been robbed when those robberies occurred and obtained a conviction.  In reversing the decision of the Sixth Circuit and remanding the case, the Court held that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their physical movements.

Chief Justice Roberts delivered the 119-page opinion for the majority, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Justices Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch each filed dissenting opinions.

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About this Author

Dena Castricone, Murtha Cullina Law Firm, Privacy and Cybersecurity Attorney
Partner

Dena M. Castricone is a member of the Long Term Care and Health Care practice groups.  She is the Chair of the Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group and the Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee.  Prior to joining Murtha Cullina, Dena served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Frank J. Williams.

Dena’s long term care and health care clients compete in a constantly evolving industry, facing both rising administrative and regulatory burdens and shrinking reimbursement rates. She helps skilled nursing centers, physician groups, home health and...

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