The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States was written long before cell phones were invented. The amendment discusses search and seizure methods and what is and is not allowed to occur. The exact phrasing of the pertinent section contains the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Constitutional rights are the backbone of the American lifestyle, but these rights are also subject to interpretation by the court system, which leads to the case of cell phone tracking by the government for the purpose of search and seizure. Search, seizure, and arrests occur on a regular basis in the United States all thanks to the use of governmental cell phone tracking. What are the findings about the constitutionality of cell phone tracking by government officials?
The 6th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for law enforcement officials to use cell phone tracking through GPS devices. The ruling came after the lawyer for a drug trafficker appealed the case stating his client’s constitutional rights had been violated. The premise for the argument was that the phone was the personal property of the defendant; therefore, police should have obtained a search warrant in order to track the device prior to the defendant’s arrest.
The court’s argument that using cell phones for tracking does not violate any rights because anyone with a cell phone has reasonable cause to understand the information is publicly available for tracking. This allows anyone, whether guilty or innocent, to be followed by law enforcement officials without due cause. No warrant is needed and tracking via cell phone does not obstruct the right to certain privacies.
Many courts have denied the ability for police to use cell phone tracking due to lack of sufficient probable cause in millions of cases. These courts agree that there is an infringement on the 4th Amendment rights of citizens. Law enforcement is given a great deal of power to track citizens without having to seek a specific warrant. The information that leads to where a person goes can also lead to conclusions about political affiliations, sexual preferences, and religious affiliations.
The method used in the past to track law breakers had to be done by a tracking device that was physically attached to the vehicle of the target. It took greater effort to attach the device, which then stayed with the car. Tracking a phone makes it easy for law enforcement to see precisely where the person is twenty-four hours a day because a phone generally goes everywhere the person does. The only thing necessary to find out where the person has been is to check the GPS records from the phone company.
Checking records from the phone company is an entirely different situation than placing a device on a vehicle for tracking. It opens up personal information that is not germane to an investigation. Organizations and United States citizens are debating whether this and other recent events have a negative impact on constitutional rights. The Supreme Court may ultimately make the decision as they interpret the meaning of the amendment, thus impacting the entire United States in a way that a vast portion of the population will not agree with.
This article was contributed together with Robert Tritter, an aspiring lawyer who looks forward to practicing law to make the world a better place. They write this on behalf of Kensington and Proximo, the number one tool to help you find your lost or stolen iPhone. In addition, it’s also a key finder as well as for other valuables. Check out kensington.com today to see how they can help protect your devices.