Cell Phone and GPS Location Data in Criminal Prosecutions

18 U.S.C. § 2516, GPS, warrantless GPS surveillance, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, privacy, Cell Phone Location Data
Cell Phone and GPS Location Data
Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer at Law Office of W.F. ”Casey” Ebsary, Jr. notes recent developments in Cell Phone Location Data used in Criminal Prosecutions. When the government wants to track an individual’s location through his or her cell phone, it submits an application to a judge seeking an order compelling a company to provide access to location data. Cell phones generate several types of data that can be used to track their users’ past or present locations with various degrees of precision. 
Not all Courts agree on tracking. “Courts are divided as to whether the government must show probable cause before it can obtain cell phone location data, as well as on related questions regarding warrantless GPS surveillance.” “[W]ith respect to wiretapping Congress has balanced privacy interests with law enforcement needs by permitting the government to use that technique for only the more serious offenses, see 18 U.S.C. § 2516
The court found the Feds must disclose certain Cell Phone Tracking Data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “We affirm that portion of the district court’s decision directing disclosure of docket information from criminal cases in which the government prosecuted individuals after judges granted applications for cell phone location data withoutdetermining probable cause, and in which those individuals were ultimately convicted or entered public guilty pleas.”
One Court has reasoned, “In deciding whether the release of particular information constitutes an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy under Exemption 7(C), we “must balance the public interest in disclosure against the [privacy] interest Congress intended the Exemption to protect.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 776 (1989); see Favish, 541 U.S. at 171; Ray, 502 U.S. at 175 (quoting Rose, 425 U.S. at 372).”
Even law enforcement agrees, “that disclosure of records revealing that an individual was involved or mentioned in a law enforcement investigation implicates a significant privacy interest.” The Government has expressed concerns that defense attorney(s) may investigate usage of Cell Phone tracking Data by contacting “convicted ‘defendants and/or their counsel to determine whether [the] defendants ever learned that they were the targets of warrantless cell phone tracking.'”
Other concerns include whether : “the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848 (1986), should be revised either to limit or to facilitate the practice.” “The Supreme Court has recently granted certiorari to address the GPS issue. See United States v. Jones, 2011 WL 1456728 (June 27, 2011), granting cert. to Maynard, 615 F.3d 544.”
Criminal Defense Attorneys argue that Cell Phone Tracking data records kept by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) “would also provide information regarding how often prosecutions against people who have been tracked are successful, thus shedding some light on the efficacy of the technique and whether pursuing it is worthwhile in light of the privacy implications. Information from suppression hearings in these cases could provide further insight regarding the efficacy of the technique by revealing whether courts suppress its fruits, and would disclose the standard or standards the government uses to justify warrantless tracking. Information from suppression hearings would also provide facts regarding the duration of tracking and the quality of tracking data, facts that would inform the public discussion concerning the intrusiveness of this investigative tool.”
A Federal Court of Appeals has just ruled: “In sum, because disclosure of the information considered in this Part would “shed[] light on [the government’s] performance of its statutory duties,” it “falls squarely within [FOIA’s] statutory purpose.” Reporters Comm., 489 U.S. at 773. And in light of the strength of the public interest in disclosure and the relative weakness of the privacy interests at stake, we conclude that production of the requested information will not constitute an “unwarranted” invasion of personal privacy under Exemption 7(C).”
The court found the Feds must disclose certain Cell Phone Tracking Data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “We affirm that portion of the district court’s decision directing disclosure of docket information from criminal cases in which the government prosecuted individuals after judges granted applications for cell phone location data withoutdetermining probable cause, and in which those individuals were ultimately convicted or entered public guilty pleas.”
Source: ACLU v USDOJ Docket No. 10-5159 (DC Cir Sept 6, 2011).
Cell Phone Data Tracking in Your Case? Call Casey at 813-222-2220.

Cell Phone and GPS Location Data in Criminal Prosecutions

Cops GPS Tracking | Hit and Run | Florida | Tampa | St Petersburg

GPS Hit and Run
A St. Petersburg Police Department Officer was acquitted when he went on trial for hit and run in his police car. During the trial there was testimony that “exposed some embarrassing revelations for the St. Petersburg Police Department when [the cop] testified that he disabled the tracking device on his police cruiser several times so that his superiors couldn’t tell where he was or how fast he was going.”

Other cops said that “it’s no secret” how to disable the devices, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Notably, we recently used the patrol car GPS to question the credibility of a police officer in a DUI case. The GPS data is sometimes embedded in the DUI videos made in patrol cars used by DUI squad cops.

If you have been charged with TRAF2012 Leaving Scene Of A Crash With Injury you can call a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer at 1-877-793-9290 and tell me your story.

Form Code: TRAF2012

Florida Statute: 316.027.1A
Level: Fel (Felony)
Degree: 3rd
Description: Leaving Scene Of A Crash With Injury

316.027 Crash involving death or personal injuries.

(1)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
316.061 Crashes involving damage to vehicle or property.
(1)The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. A person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

316.062 Duty to give information and render aid.

(1)The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall give his or her name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and shall upon request and if available exhibit his or her license or permit to drive, to any person injured in such crash or to the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle or other property damaged in the crash and shall give such information and, upon request, exhibit such license or permit to any police officer at the scene of the crash or who is investigating the crash and shall render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.

(2)In the event none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under subsection (1), and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such crash, after fulfilling all other requirements of s. 316.027 and subsection (1), insofar as possible on his or her part to be performed, shall forthwith report the crash to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority and submit thereto the information specified in subsection (1).

(3)The statutory duty of a person to make a report or give information to a law enforcement officer making a written report relating to a crash shall not be construed as extending to information which would violate the privilege of such person against self-incrimination.

(4)A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.


Source: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/police-officers-testimony-exposes-practice-of-disabling-gps-trackers/1141567

GPS Tracking Requires Search Warrant

GPS Tracking Needs Warrant
Tampa Drug Charge Defense Lawyer, Attorney W.F. “Casey” Ebsary, Jr. reviewed an interesting appeals court decision where police put a GPS Tracking Device on a car and followed him for weeks. The defendant was arrested for Federal cocaine charges. Specifically, “conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and 50 or more grams of cocaine base.”  The court summarized the case as involving “Evidence Obtained from GPS Device.”

On a side note, California, has made it illegal for anyone except law enforcement to use a GPS to determine the location or movement of a person. In some jurisdictions, GPS tracking of a person’s location without that person’s knowledge is a violation of an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.” Some law enforcement agencies use “darts” a miniaturized GPS receiver, radio transmitter, and battery embedded in a sticky compound material. Cops shoot the darts at a vehicle and it sticks to the target tracking begins. 

The Court further held “the whole of a person‘s movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood a stranger would observe all those movements is not just remote, it is essentially nil. It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work. It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person‘s hitherto private routine.”

The appeal centered on defense arguments that “his conviction should be overturned because the police violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches by tracking his movements 24 hours a day for four weeks with a GPS device they had installed on his Jeep without a valid warrant. We consider first whether that use of the device was a search and then, having concluded it was, consider whether it was reasonable and whether any error was harmless.” The court ruled that tracking with GPS was a search. A Search Warrant was required.

The Government used the GPS data to show a pattern of travels by the defendant. The Court mentioned , “This case itself illustrates how the sequence of a person‘s movements may reveal more than the individual movements of which it is composed. Having tracked Jones‘s movements for a month, the Government used the resulting pattern — not just the location of a particular ― stash house or Jones‘s movements on any one trip or even day — as evidence of Jones‘s involvement in the cocaine trafficking business. The pattern the Government would document with the GPS data was central to its presentation of the case . . . .” The court further noted, “The GPS data were essential to the Government‘s case. By combining them with Jones‘s cell-phone records the Government was able to paint a picture of Jones‘s movements that made credible the allegation that he was involved in drug trafficking.”
The Court also stated, “A reasonable person does not expect anyone to monitor and retain a record of every time he drives his car, including his origin, route, destination, and each place he stops and how long he stays there; rather, he expects each of those movements to remain ― ‘disconnected and anonymous’.” In closing the Court held, “Society recognizes Jones‘s expectation of privacy in his movements over the course of a month as reasonable, and the use of the GPS device to monitor those movements defeated that reasonable expectation.” The court concluded its forty-one  page opinion stating the cocaine trafficking defendant’s, “conviction is reversed because it was obtained with evidence procured in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The complete opinion is a free download here. 

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