Our lips are sealed: Supreme Court refuses to reckon with warrantless cellphone searches

Monday, November 9, 2015
By Paul Martin

9 Nov, 2015

Punting on the issue of digital-era privacy, the US Supreme Court has declined to accept a case calling into question whether police officers must obtain a search warrant to access cellphone location data from wireless carriers.
The Supreme Court said Monday it will not hear Davis v. United States, an appeal levied by Quartavious Davis, who was convicted of playing a part in a series of robberies in the Miami, Florida, region in 2010.

Davis has challenged his convictions on grounds that they rested on location information acquired, without a search warrant, by police from his cellphone provider, MetroPCS Communications Inc. The information linked Davis to seven armed robberies from August to October 2010.

When Davis first stood trial, prosecutors introduced call records obtained by MetroPCS that tied him to crime scenes, including a Walgreens drug store and a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. A jury ultimately convicted Davis on all 16 counts, and he was subsequently sentenced to 162 years in prison.

Attorneys representing Davis have maintained that police needed “probable cause” to reasonably and legally demand the cell-location data from MetroPCS. The government says the 1986 Stored Communication Act (SCA) protects law enforcement, and that prosecutors need only to prove “reasonable grounds” exist to access records “relevant and material” to a police investigation.

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