When the cops put a GPS tracking device on a man’s car, without a
warrant, and used it to track the man’s comings and goings, he brought
his criminal case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He’d been convicted of a
drug offense as a result of the warrantless tracking, but he and his lawyers didn’t
think that was fair. After all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution
generally requires warrants be obtained from a judge before cops conduct a search.
The Supremes ruled that warrantless GPS tracking was unconstitutional.
In the wake of warrantless tracking, which now continues in the form of
cell tower tracking, now that warrantless GPS tracking is no longer an
option for police, some states are beginning the push toward greater privacy
Case in point: Ryan Gallagher for Slate writes that Maine has become the
second state (Montana was the first) to pass a law against warrantless
cellphone tracking. Texas had something going, too, but the bill didn’t
make it through the legislature. All in all, we have what appears to be
the start of a trend toward protecting citizens from warrantless search
Gallagher writes that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which
includes Maryland in its jurisdiction, is at the moment considering a
case involving seven whole months of warrantless tracking. The cops in
United States v. Graham got location data (likely from cell tower tracking) showing all 29,659
places the defendant had visited for more than half a year.
Talk about privacy issues. Talk about out-of-control warrantless cell tower tracking.