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Warrantless Tracking of Cell GPS Upheld

08.17.12

No warrant was required to track a drug dealer’s GPS locations from cell phones since the defendant “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data emanating from his cell phone that showed its location.” On August 14, 2012 Justice John Rogers of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a conviction in US v Skinner based on GPS location data that the DEA used to follow Skinner who drove around the US in a motorhome filled with over 1,100 pounds of marijuana:

When criminals use modern technological devices to carry out criminal acts and to reduce the possibility of detection, they can hardly complain when the police take advantage of the inherent characteristics of those very devices to catch them.

The Skinner case is different than the US v. Jones case decided earlier this year where the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that a GPS tracking device could not be attached to a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant.

Surely we will see more cases where cell GPS data will be used in cases whether criminal or civil.
 

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