Phone calls may be private, but the tell-tale signal from a suspect’s cell phone is fair game for use as a homing device by police, a state appeals court ruled Monday in State v. Earls, A2084-07. Thomas Earls had no constitutionally protected privacy interest in preventing his cell-phone carrier from disclosing its general whereabouts.
“Nor did it matter whether or not the police were acting in a capacity that would trigger the emergency-aid exception to the warrant requirement”
The rule is well established in federal and other jurisdictions, but it is an issue of first impression in New Jersey.
[Summary courtesy of the N.J. Law Journal]
Appeals Court frames the issue
The primary issue presented by this appeal is whether the use of cell phone site information, obtained by the police without a warrant from a suspect’s cell phone provider to
determine his general location, violates the Fourth Amendment or Article I, paragraph 7, of the New Jersey Constitution.”
The appeals court held the use of such information to determine a suspect’s general location on public roadways or other places in which there is no legitimate expectation of privacy does not violate the suspect’s constitutional rights.