Supreme Court protects Fourth Amendment rights

Supreme Court protects Fourth Amendment rights

LUBBOCK, Texas -

There are about 400 million cell phones in the Unites States, and now all that data is protected by the Fourth Amendment. Justices warn it could lead to a blizzard of litigation. 

The Supreme Court ruled this type of intrusion in a person's personal life is not legal unless it's supported by probable cause. Criminal defense lawyer Chuck Lanehart is excited about the decision and says it's already easy enough to track cell phones. 

"Every time your cell phone hooks into a cell phone tower, it creates a record. A digital record of where your cell phone was at that place and time," Lanehart said. 

At issue, a legal precedent called the "Third Party Doctrine" that suggests anything a third party knows about, like a cell carrier, isn't considered private. So, the third party has access to almost everything that is done on a cell phone the court finds. Cell phone users have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. 

David Guinn Jr., also an attorney, says this needed to be looked at. 

"The government was saying that although it's available to third parties in terms of data storage and data usage, you don't have any privacy in that. Well if that's the case, unless we all move out to the mountains or into the basement, there won't be any privacy at all," Guinn said. 

Guinn says broadband carriers will benefit from the ruling. 

"There's an economic end in this. Doing this stuff for free for law enforcement all the time is costing them a lot of money. They have whole divisions of millions of dollars of payroll just to answer law enforcement requests for information. Getting a warrant is going to slow that down a little bit," Guinn said. 

The court carves out exceptions for emergencies, like bomb threats and child abductions. It also includes pursuing fleeing suspects, protect victims from imminent harm, or prevent the destruction of evidence. 

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