Courthouse Steps: Carpenter v. United States

Criminal Law & Procedure and Telecommunications & Electronic Media Practice Groups Teleforum

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Arrests made in an armed robbery case occurred because the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to obtain “transactional records” of the cell phones owned by the alleged coconspirators.  These records track the date and time of a call and the approximate position of the caller.  The records were collected under the Stored Communications Act of 1986, which allows the government certain kinds of telecommunications records relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.  The defendants wanted the stored data to be inadmissible because the FBI failed to get a search warrant to acquire the records, thereby violating the Fourth Amendment.  The district court dismissed this argument and the Sixth Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s decision.  The Supreme Court will decide if the warrantless procurement of cell phone information, including location of the phone, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. ˈ      


Orin S. Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School

Michael Sussmann, Partner, Perkins Coie LLP


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