The United States Supreme Court sent shock waves to the criminal defense community with their decision in Carpenter V. United States on June 22, 2018. The decision ruled that access to a person’s historical cell-site records is a Fourth Amendment search because it violates the person’s “legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements.” The court also held that accessing those records requires a warrant. To understand what this decision will mean to the people of the state of Michigan, we turned to leaders in the criminal law community to get their thoughts.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates which has earned a reputation as the top criminal defense firm in our state. Grabel was quoted as saying, “We need to understand that while this is a victory it is a narrow one. In Carpenter, we have a 5-4 decision and when you break down the specifics of the opinion, the court actually states that seven days or more of cell-phone records equate to a Fourth Amendment search. This still provides wiggle room for the government actor to potentially violate the rights of our citizens. Yes, this case was a move in the right direction but we still need further protection when utilizing a cell phone.”
Jeremy Tatum, a criminal defense attorney in Saginaw, Michigan stated, “When we look at cell-site location information (CSLI), we see a grave danger. We have always been taught that our expectation of privacy is lowered once we leave the house and we do assume the risk whenever we have a conversation on our cells. Now, there is some level of protection but not to the point where we should tell our clients to feel comfortable saying anything on their phones. There is still a hidden danger of using a statement as a party admission when you speak too freely on your cell phone.”