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Search warrant required for records of cellphone location, federal appeals court rules

The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Police must get a search warrant to obtain records about cellphone locations in criminal investigations, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals conflicts with two other federal appeals court rulings and increases the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up the issue. Attorneys last week asked the Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling in a Florida case that said search warrants are not required.

The case in the Richmond-based appeals court involved two men who were convicted of a series of armed robberies in the Baltimore area. The court said authorities who obtained cellphone tower records tracking the suspects’ movements without a warrant violated the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.

“Today’s opinion is a full-throated defense of Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the digital age,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.


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