Can the Police Obtain Cell Phone Location Information Without a Warrant?

It depends.  The Fourth Amendment provides that a person is free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and that you, your home, and anything where you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy are protected from warrantless searches.  The question becomes do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy of your cell phone location information that is stored in cell phone towers. 


The Supreme Court has made a distinction as to whether cell phone location information is real-time or historical. Real-time cell information is used to track current situations that are unfolding, whereas historical cell information retroactively looks back to see the phone’s location at certain points in time. 


The Court noted in real time circumstances (e.g. pursuit of a fleeing suspect, or to protect individuals who are threatened with imminent harm), an officer would be able to obtain real-time cell information without a warrant.  Whereas obtaining historical cell information would violate a person’s Fourth Amendment Rights. 

Categories: General
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