Supreme Court pressed to rule on police access to cellphone data

Supreme Court pressed to rule on police access to cellphone data
© Thinkstock

Legal watchdogs are calling on the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether it is constitutional for police to have access to telephone records without first obtaining a search warrant.

The Constitution Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Democracy & Technology and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed an amicus brief Monday in support of Quartavious Davis, a Florida man who is asking the Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

The case stems from the lawsuit Davis brought against the United States after he was convicted of seven armed robberies in 2010. Police used his cellphone records to place him in the vicinity of six of the seven robberies in the Miami area.


Davis argued that police having warrantless access to his cellphone data violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and sided with the government. 

In the brief, The Constitution Project said the government has the constitutional responsibility to insist police use a probable cause search warrant given its newfound ability to track people for extended periods of time through cell-site location information.

"Cell location data can reveal the most intimate details of a person's personal life, including professional, political, religious and medical associations," Virginia Sloan, the group’s president, said in a news release. "For the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable searches to have any meaning in the digital age, the courts must demand law enforcement officials seek a warrant before accessing it."