Vol. 41 No. 4 Pg. 54
Wyoming Bar Journal
A. KLINKNER THE KLINKNER LAW FIRM, LLC CHEYENNE, WYOMING.
ruling that cell phone tracking information is subject to 4th
Amendment warrant requirements, the U.S. Supreme Court hopes
not to "embarrass the future"
warrant required before the government may obtain cell phone
tracking records from wireless providers? In the recent case
of Carpenter v. United States, the United States
Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative for
most types of routine criminal investigations. Considering
how ubiquitous cell phones are in modern society - and the
staggering amount of detailed and constant information cell
phones may reveal about their users - many civil rights and
privacy advocates hailed the Carpenter decision as a
major victory. However, a careful reading of
Carpenter suggests that its utility in extending
Fourth Amendment protections to our digital footprint is
likely more limited than may be assumed.
Carpenter, the government suspected that Mr.
Carpenter was the ringleader in a series of store
robberies. Accordingly, prosecutors applied for
court orders requiring Carpenter's wireless carriers to
produce "cell-site location information" for
Carpenter's phone. "Cell-site location
information" refers to time- and location-stamped data
logs maintained by wireless carriers which pinpoint the
geographic location of a cell phone throughout the
The court issued orders for Carpenter's cell-site
location information pursuant to the Stored Communications
Act, which requires the disclosure of various
telecommunications records when the government "offers
specific and articulable facts showing that there are
reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are
relevant and material to an ongoing criminal
investigation." The records provided by
Carpenter's wireless provider showed that Carpenter was
present near each store at the time they were robbed.
Carpenter moved the trial court to suppress the cell-site
location records because they were not obtained by a warrant
supported by probable cause, but the court denied this motion
and Carpenter was...