The Supreme Court ruled, at the end of June, that seizing cell-site location information—data that tracks cell phone users’ movements—constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. Speaking for a 5-4 majority in Carpenter v. United States, Chief Justice Roberts addressed questions surrounding law enforcement’s warrantless seizure of over 12,000 cell site location points pinged by the defendant’s phone, which allowed for nearly minute-by-minute tracking of his past movements. At the time, police needed only to prove that the data was reasonably relevant to their investigations. In its opinion the Court will now require that a warrant be obtained with a showing of probable cause – a higher burden of proof than previously required –, and an individualized suspicion that the data’s owner committed a crime in order to access cell-site records.
Eoin Beirne is a Member in the firm’s Boston office. Eóin is a litigator specializing in health care enforcement defense, white collar criminal investigations, and regulatory enforcement proceedings as well as corporate and securities litigation. He has conducted numerous internal investigations both at the client’s own initiative and following receipt of a subpoena or other notice of a government investigation in the areas of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations, health care fraud and abuse, insider trading and False Claims Act violations among others.