A recent ruling by 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 5, 2015, has countered a ruling made by the United States Supreme Court during Riley v California in 2014, stating that law enforcement had to produce warrants to be able to search the digital information of smartphones an individual was in possession of at the time the arrest was made. This new ruling puts in contention that very prospect. The ruling on May 5th, states that law enforcement has the right to access, and track, the GPS signal of an individual’s smartphone. This can be done in cases where the individual in question is a suspect, and has not been formally charged with a crime.
It has been ruled that this practice is perfectly legal, and does not violate the constitution. However, many are still questioning this decision.
The debate arose over the conviction of one Quartavious Davis, whose verdict was appealed because the police had entered evidence of his whereabouts by way of tracking his location through the GPS signal on his smartphone. Davis and his attorneys argued that the evidence submitted by the police involved which led to his conviction was a violation of his Fourth Amendment Right. The court subsequently found that his Fourth Amendment Right had not been violated.
This decision has extended beyond debate, and has entered the domain of how attorneys can prepare and present cases, and how they defend their clients in the courtroom. In the age of technology and law, lines are becoming blurred as to what constitutes lawful and unlawful searches, what cases can be made in client defense, and where the lines are drawn when arguing rights violations.
Keeping your firm abreast of changes to the law in regards to the changes and advancements in technology will allow associates to better engage the courts, counsel clients, and prepare for trials. This ruling has altered the perception of when and where searches can be conducted, the types of information that can be obtained, the methods used to obtain them, and the legality surrounding the obtainment of the information. Where technology has blurred these lines it is up to the attorney to understand rulings such as these, and facilitate the interpretation of these precedents while preparing cases in advance.
Jeff Hughes, J.D.