Can cell phone records be searched

Supreme Court says police can't use your cellphone to track you without a court order

By mapping which towers were used by a given phone number, police can reconstruct a person's whereabouts over days, weeks or months. Friday's ruling said police can still get cellphone records without a warrant in such emergencies as "the need to pursue a fleeing suspect, protect individuals who are threatened with imminent harm, or prevent the imminent destruction of evidence.

The Supreme Court's ruling came in a case brought by a Michigan man, Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of robbing a string of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores after FBI agents used three months of cellphone records to show that he was near each store at the time of the crimes.

When Can Cell Phone Search Results Be Used as Evidence?

He argued that because the FBI did not get a search warrant, that evidence, along with his conviction, should be thrown out. Carpenter lost in the lower courts, which ruled that no search warrant was needed because phone customers have no expectation that their records will be private. Those decisions relied on a Supreme Court case from 38 years ago. It said phone customers don't expect that the numbers they dial will remain private, because the phone company uses that information for billing.

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Your cell phone records may not be as private as you think. There are times when Federal Agencies Can Search Cell Phone Records. Federal government . “A person does not surrender all fourth amendment protection by venturing into He added that historical cellphone records “give the government near perfect The court has previously ruled that a search warrant was not.

But Carpenter's lawyers argued that the reasoning of that case, issued when telephones were hard-wired into the wall and didn't move, should not apply in the digital age, when customers expect their calling patterns to remain private. Getting cellphone tower location data, they said, allows the police to discover far more than which numbers were dialed.

Such records can be very revealing when it comes to your personal relationships, business dealings, financial matters, and purchases. Fortunately, phone companies are subject to privacy laws that require them to keep your information safely stored, away from the public. There are some exceptions to this general privacy requirement, however, which users should understand and recognize. And under certain circumstances, your phone itself could be seized and its contents perused. Federal government agencies can access your cell phone records including call logs and text records with a subpoena if you are being investigated in connection with a criminal or civil enforcement action.

Your cell phone company is required by law to comply with subpoenas or warrants that request these records. They can also wiretap, that is, listen and record your cell phone conversations.

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Moreover, the Patriot Act makes it illegal for the cell phone company that has delivered your records to the FBI or NSA to make it publicly known or even discuss the fact that your phone records have been investigated. The federal government also controls U. This is because e ntry to the United States from other countries is considered to be a unique situation, with national security at stake.

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While at least one court in the Ninth Circuit has said that this practice should be limited to instances where a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity exists, other courts have yet to weigh in. It is not only the federal authorities that can request records of your cellular activity. Local state police can also do so, if they have probably cause.

The Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure still applies, fortunately, and because you have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the information stored in your cell phone, a search warrant is needed before a police officer or investigator can examine your data.

Note, however, that a police officer may, in some instances, have the authority to search a cell phone when the search is " incident to an arrest.

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Similarly, if there are "exigent circumstances" to an arrest, an officer who believes that information on the phone itself may prevent immediate future harm may conduct a limited search without a warrant. In investigations for civil and criminal cases, attorneys will go to great lengths to obtain the evidence needed to win a case.

Social media has become a source for information and potential evidence for or against people. Although many people call it an invasion of privacy, attorneys can use cell phone search results as evidence.

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In most situations, a law enforcement officer, attorney, or anyone else cannot look through or take something without probable cause. But the Fourth Amendment also protects cell phones. A law enforcement officer or injury lawyer must prove it is very likely that evidence is on the phone to legally search it. Different people can search your cell phone under different conditions.

Criminal Rights

These logs aren't any different than a detailed phone record. Sign Up. Outside of information actually stored on the device, call detail records maintained by wireless service providers contain phone and data activity duration down to the second, even recording non-billable activity such as outgoing calls that failed to connect. Can't I just run a cell phone records investigation myself? State the phone number. The federal Freedom of Information Act grants anyone the right to request access to federal agency records and information, with a few exceptions pertaining to national security, law enforcement records, trade secrets and the like. In this case, the U.

Federal agencies can search any information on your phone, including search results if they provide a subpoena. All cell phone companies must obey federal subpoenas to search phone records. Police officers also have the right to search your cell phone in certain circumstances. As mentioned above, however, they must have probable cause for a court to consider anything discovered on the phone admissible. Along with probable cause, law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant for the information.